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School CP - August 2004

Corpun file 13876

Jamaica Observer, Kingston, 16 August 2004

Always learning, still teaching

By Ann Margaret Lim
Observer staff reporter


Dunn... was awarded her PhD in 1998 from Lasalle University in the United States, shows off her PhD thesis - Violence in the Nation's Schools: A search for solutions.

Sylvia Dunn is supposed to be retired. Usually, at her home in rural St Catherine you are likely to find her feeding goats, tending dogs or picking seasonal fruits.

But it is just as likely that she might be poring over some document in response to some question about education posed by Jamaica's education ministry.

In this persona, it is Dr Sylvia Dunn, for the PhD she received in 1998 from Lasalle University, Louisiana that focused on violence in Jamaican schools, plus 40 years of experience that she developed working in Jamaica's educational system.

She is also a highly respected intellectual, some of whose views, including discipline in schools, are hardly conformist in terms of today's norms.

Dr Dunn's accomplishments are many.

Not too long ago, for instance, she was representing Jamaica in the International Who's Who Congress held in Ireland. And not only was she included in the 2002, eighth edition of the International Who's Who of Professional and Business Women compilation, but Dr Dunn also made the first edition of the 2000 Intellectuals of the 20th Century.

Locally, she has also amassed awards from the Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA), the St Catherine Parish Council and racked up academic credentials.


The quest for knowledge and discovery wasn't satiated when she graduated from the University of the West Indies in 1974 with a B Sc in economics after stints at Mico Teachers College and West Indies College.

After university, Dunn taught A'Level economics at St Catherine and Calabar High Schools, before moving on to the Columbia University in New York to pursue her Masters in educational administration, which she obtained in 1982, followed by her doctorate six years ago.

She said: "My thesis, 'Violence in the Nation's Schools: A Search for Solutions' was a study of 25 secondary schools that listed contributors to the increasing violence in these institutions.

"It demonstrated that the new secondary schools had the highest violence rate and that the independent (private) high schools had the lowest.

"The other three categories were the traditional, technical and comprehensive high schools. It concluded that absentee parents, violent movies, the growing drug culture, too lenient teachers and the absence of corporal punishment all contributed to the growing violence in schools."

Aside from supporting the caning of difficult students, especially males, by the principal only, a suggestion which she admits came under heavy fire by many, Dunn recommended:

. the expansion of peer counselling, since according to her teenagers more readily listen to their peers;

. the eradication of squatter settlements surrounding the schools;

. the removal of all compound vendors in an attempt to eliminate the sale of drug-laced sweets on the school compounds; and

. tighter security at school campuses.


Although she's been involved with the island's educational system for over 40 years, it's obvious that Dr Dunn doesn't see her task as completed.

Since 2002 she has been a consultant for the ministry of education. As team leader for a group that conducts panel examinations on the island's high schools, Dr Dunn writes reports and recommendations from the findings for the ministry.

"The report looks at the school's physical conditions, teaching quality, internal and external exam performances, social and cultural development and the school's general administration which includes financial management," she said.

Dr Dunn, who is also a member of the Education Officers Association published a small book in-between her Masters and doctoral thesis, titled Teachers - the Hub of Classroom Ethics.


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