Before the onset of puberty, connections are formed between a child’s brain cells at a level of efficiency that is unmatched in a person’s later development. During puberty, those connections that were rarely used are destroyed, while those that are used become strengthened. It would therefore be beneficial if the primary and secondary schools’ curriculum could be designed to take advantage of a child’s natural cognitive strengths during these two stages of their development.
Last week, we suggested a primary school curriculum of teaching students to understand the fundamental concepts of core subjects, rather than teaching them to remember detailed technical information. Today, we shall suggest a curriculum for secondary school, which builds upon the primary school curriculum presented last week.
At this point, it is useful to identify two common methods of testing that can influence teaching. The first method tests a persons recall ability or their ability to remember information. The second method tests a person’s knowledge or their understanding of information. Recall testing is typically used in psychological experiments, while knowledge tests are common at graduate university level. From primary school to undergraduate university level, teachers generally employ a combination of recall and knowledge tests. It should be noted that recall tests are much easier for a teacher and teaching institutions to set and grade.
Information that is understood becomes knowledge for the student. Information that is not understood, but which can be recalled remains in the realm of information. Testing a person’s ability to recall information does not effectively measure how much information that a student understands. Education should be principally about understanding information. Recall testing may therefore not be a fair nor effective method of assessment for educational purposes.
Typical recall dominated teaching and testing is: Barbados became independent in 1966. When did Barbados become independent? 1966. Knowledge dominated teaching and testing requires a student to demonstrate their understanding of a subject. Remembering detailed information at this stage is comparatively insignificant since such information can be easily referenced. However, it is important that the student understand the referenced information. It is suggested that the Common Entrance Examination could be designed to test a student’s knowledge.
When students enter secondary school, there is a time of transition as they adjust to the new psychological, emotional, and physical changes brought on by puberty. It would therefore be beneficial if prerequisite courses that build on the fundamental information learnt at primary school were taught. These include basic mathematics, English, integrated science, geography, Spanish, music, art, and physical education. Under the current system, students generally spend 5 years before they are allowed to take the CXC exams. According to the CXC, their syllabus’ can be completed within 2 years. Students could therefore be allowed to take these CXC examinations after their second year.
In the third year the students could be taught the remaining core subjects, namely: general mathematics, information technology, history, religious knowledge, and physical education. They could also be allowed to choose up to four other courses from the following: physics, chemistry, biology, business, accounts, French, English literature, technical drawing, agricultural science, and industrial arts. The students can then take these CXC examinations in their fourth year.
The students will have up to 15 CXC certificates by this time, and they can either attend university, pursue CAPE courses, or prepare to enter the workforce. To prepare for work, students can spend one or two years completing the following preparatory trade subjects that are offered at CXC: agricultural science, office procedures, principles of business, typewriting, home economics, and industrial technology. They can also take the applicable CXC exam.
Secondary school students can therefore be sufficiently prepared to enter the workforce as employees or as entrepreneurs, or be prepared to attend university. It is my sincere hope that primary and secondary school education can become an exciting and fulfilling experience for all students, by allowing them to learn in an environment that supports their natural cognitive strengths.