There is a window of opportunity in human development, when learning can occur at a level of efficiency to make what is learnt become an intuitive or natural part of the person. When this occurs, and such persons receive the opportunity to learn advanced information, or to demonstrate what they know, then they are typically described as of having an aptitude for learning, or possessing natural talent.
This window of opportunity occurs before children reach puberty. It is therefore advantageous to students if they master fundamental concepts of core subjects during this time. Memorizing technical terms or specific dates of events are not required for mastering fundamental concepts. It is therefore suggested that the primary school curriculum be modified to take advantage of the child’s natural cognitive strengths.
Understanding the fundamental concepts of core subjects should provide Barbadian students with sufficient general knowledge to interact intelligently with others, and develop sensible solutions to problems. It should also provide them with an excellent foundation to understand more complex information. The suggested core subject areas are: communication, economics, science, music, art, history and ethics. Since primary school students will efficiently learn what they sense, it is important that they be exposed to standards of excellence in all of these subject areas.
To facilitate the student speaking and writing a high standard of English and Spanish, the child should listen to well spoken English and Spanish, and read well-written books. All primary school teachers should speak clear standard English, and correct students whenever they speak improperly at school.
Correct grammar and sentence structure can therefore become a natural part of the student without the student having to separately memorize technical information like pronouns, and adjectives. If teaching resources are limited, conversational Spanish can be taught, and students can be encouraged to listen to a good Spanish radio broadcast.
It should be noted that poor parenting can frustrate the best school curriculum. It is disadvantageous to children if they are pacified by watching television programs, where they are forced to assimilate the poor grammar and sentence structure that are typical in children’s television programs. Parents can facilitate their children’s academic development by reading to them, and encouraging them to borrow and read well-written books from the library.
Children can learn the basic economic system by participating in a controlled school economy. They can use monopoly type money to purchase goods and services at the school. Students can also earn “money” by being obedient, responsive and helpful, and can donate or lend “money” to their fellow students. The student can record every transaction in their exercise books, and calculate the balance left in their account after every transaction.
After two years, the child can be given a “credit card” instead of money, and continue to make transactions and calculate the balance. The students can also learn to budget and perform functions like calculating the average amount of “money” spent each day, and the total amount of “money” in circulation. Therefore the student can appreciate the economic system and how arithmetic is integrated into daily activities, without having arithmetic being taught as a separate subject.
Basic concepts in applied science can be learnt by constructing simple structural, mechanical, electrical, chemical, and civil engineering experiments. Thus the student can learn the fundamentals of physics, chemistry, geography, mathematics, and industrial arts without being taught to memorize the associated technical information and jargon.
Music and Art
Music can be taught by allowing the students to listen to well-played music using a range or rhythms and instruments. They should also be taught to play the recorder, keyboard, and a percussion instrument by ear. They do not need to be exposed to detailed music theory at this stage. For art, they can be taught to draw geometric and natural forms.
History and Ethics
Students should understand what is right and wrong. They have a conscience to guide them, which should be reinforced with examples in history.
Next week, a suggested curriculum for secondary school.