One of the most important functions of Government is the provision of education to the citizens of the country. It’s very difficult to develop economically without an educated workforce.
The ULP government has coined the term “Education Revolution” since it’s been in office. As I understand it, this term means mandatory high school education for all. The ULP administration has increased the number of university scholarships, they have increased the number of qualified teachers and they have built a number of new schools. These are all good things and the government should be congratulated for these achievements.
It is my hope that the focus on Education continues. I would like to see more constructive comments and ideas about how we move our education process forward. We must always argue and debate about education. This is an extremely healthy thing to do.
I believe we need to redirect the focus of education. Initially, I think we need to focus on pre-school and primary schools and on early childhood education. Our Common Entrance results should be unacceptable. We need to do better. The challenge however extends beyond Government. It extends to parenting and the communities in which we live.
Let me tell you a story. I once lived on a small Grenadine island, which has a small primary school. The school had students made up mainly of white foreign kids and local black kids. At the time I lived on that island, there was a foreign headmaster. Before he left the island, I had lunch with him and his wife. At one point in our conversation, I asked him a question. The question was, “Who performs better in primary school, the white kids or the black kids”? When I referred to black and white, I really meant local or foreign.
The headmaster said that the white kids performed much better on average. So, here we have a situation where there are two groups of young primary schools kids in small classes receiving a lot of individual attention and yet they are performing very differently. Why is this? The headmaster went on to say that the differences, in his view, had nothing to do with the intellectual ability of the kids. Absolutely nothing!
In his view, the reason for the disparity was the home environment. The foreign (or white kids) generally went home to an environment where the parents (mother AND father) provided a loving, nurturing and encouraging environment.
The local kids generally went home to an environment, which, in many cases, was not conducive to promoting a positive learning environment. It some cases, the environment was psychologically, if not physically, damaging. I will leave the topic of physical violence being visited upon our children and their mothers to another programme. The local parent — and in many cases there was only a mother or a grandmother or aunt — meant well but did not seem to encourage the kids. The damage caused by comments such, as “That’s all you doing? When I was in your grade, I was doing more advanced work” is incalculable. It’s demeans the child’s sense of self worth and achievement. And the parents don’t even realize the damage they do!
I tell the story above to illustrate the critical nature of the home, the family and the community in the education process. This is not in any way to provide an excuse for poor performance in the formal education sphere. It is however critical to understand that the holistic nature of education and to not underestimate the critical role that parenting plays. Educators need the support of parents. Hillary Clinton has famously used the phrase “it takes a village” to raise a child. And a village, a community has a critical role to play.
The above is not meant to condemn our Vincentian parents. Indeed, many if not the majority of parents are very conscious of the critical role of education and are very supportive of their children. However, too many of our children struggle without adequate parental and community support.
There is a whole can of worms. This includes the reality of our young men who seem to have adopted a mentality of “Breed them and leave them” in their relationships with young women. It includes the reality of young women not understanding the role of contraception. It includes the role of churches that seem to ignore the reality of human sexuality. In includes the reality of beating the crap out of children and calling that love (the famous “don’t spare the rod” approach). I do want to talk about these and other matters in future programmes.
There are so many issues to be aired. These are critical for our society. The world is changing at an ever-increasing rate. If we continue to fail our children in their education, they are doomed and our economies and societies will be doomed. I don’t hear enough serious talk on education. Education is far too important to leave to the few.
Is the school day long enough? Is the long summer break (which is relic from an agrarian society that needed child labour) conducive to getting the best out of children? Are we teaching kids how to think or just to memorize and regurgitate? Is it right for kids to start primary school at age five? What is a qualified teacher? Are the teachers unions too strong? Do they care about the kids? What’s the role of sports and culture in education? Is it right that kids in Form 3 must decide on courses that will dictate their future career choices and their life? Is the core curriculum adequate?
We need to build a society where it becomes socially unacceptable for males (who are not MEN) to have 3, 4, 5 or more children with several mothers. These men can’t provide even basic financial support to their children and they certainly don’t provide emotional support. We need to encourage sexually active young women to use contraceptives. We need males to be MEN. Take responsibility!
In a future programme I want to talk about primary school and preschool. I believe we put inadequate emphasis in these critical phases of education.
(@stephenj5 [email protected])
(Editors note: This opinion was first broadcast on IKTV and is published with permission)
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