Education in Crisis

Dear Readers:

This article is not written for the 25% to 30% of our students who are disciplined enough to study with limited encouragement, but rather for the remaining 70% to 75% of students who do not do well. Regrettably, the students who would benefit most from this article are unlikely to read it without substantial encouragement. I therefore hope to influence their parents and other concerned persons.

If a child learnt high standards of information or behaviour, then achieving or maintaining similar high standards would tend to come naturally for that child. For example, if the standard of written and spoken English learnt was high, then speaking and writing well would happen naturally. However, the child would need to exercise effort to speak sub-standard English or to use expletives. Therefore if excellence in behaviour and ability is to be a natural part of our children, then it is important that they are exposed to the good, the excellent, the best, the ideal – essentially the highest standards available.

Whatever standards a child learns initially, and is reinforced, become the standards that govern their adult behaviour. High standards should therefore be promoted in primary school and reinforced in secondary school. Parents, teachers, and youth leaders can assist in this regard by maintaining and promoting high standards themselves. If they are unable to do this, then they should decline when identified as role models for our youth.

When persons graduate from our secondary schools, they should be mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually prepared to be trained for most responsibilities. This objective is at variance with the co-educational learning environment at our secondary schools, and with the spiral curriculum adopted by the Ministry responsible for education, which are major hindrances to learning for the majority of our students.

People can be trained for most responsibilities, regardless of the number of certificates that they might have obtained, provided that they have learnt to effectively communicate, calculate, conclude through analysis and logic, and be creative. Parents can help their children to develop these necessary skills.

Parents reading to and encouraging their children to read a high standard of English literature can facilitate high standards of communication. Good quality English stories can fuel a child’s imagination and facilitate their creativity. Time for reading should be gotten from time spent watching the television.

Parents can facilitate their children’s learning of some fundamental science concepts by giving them responsibilities. Some fundamental concepts of: biology can be learnt by planting and tending a kitchen garden, chemistry by cooking dinner, physics by performing household maintenance activities, and arithmetic by grocery shopping with a budget. Most of these activities can be done during the weekend or after school.

Parents can also help to prepare their children to learn detailed information by encouraging them to listen to a high standard of complex music. This can include high quality classical orchestra and steel pan music. I would not suggest complex jazz where the basic musical rules are sometimes bent in the name of creativity, or hard rock where notes are sometimes distorted, or some forms of reggae and rap where bass notes are overemphasised to the point of distortion. These forms can be appreciated later, but early exposure can limit a child’s appreciation of other musical forms that share the same musical scale.

Admittedly it is unlikely that the majority of the new generation of parents, who are themselves products of the same deficient school system, will read good literature to their children, turn off the TV, patiently supervise their children in household maintenance activities, and play classical music. The solution must therefore lie with the formal educational system.

We cannot expect to perpetuate a system where 75% of persons are very poorly prepared to enter the workforce, and then hope to produce general standards of excellence in the public or private sector. The unproductively associated with poorly prepared employees has obvious negative consequences for Barbados’ economy. The Government is a major employer and the public sector reform initiative is an ineffective response for so many poorly prepared employees.

The challenge for Barbados is for the Ministry responsible for education to critically examine the harm done by their ill-advised policies to our students, parents, businesses, social services, and Barbados’ economy, and have the courage to change.

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