Edutech represents the most dramatic change to our educational system since the introduction of coeducation, and computer literacy is an important component. The school buildings are being upgraded to receive the computer equipment, and some schools are already in possession of computers. The Caribbean Examination Council’s Information Technology course is available, and the syllabus covers a broad range of the computer’s applications. Soon, every child graduating from our secondary schools will have had the opportunity to become computer literate. There is therefore every indication that this objective of Edutech will be realised.
The introduction of the Caricom Single Market and Economy should provide our graduates with many job opportunities in the Caribbean region, and Edutech should prepare our graduates to take full advantage of such opportunities. With our students sufficiently prepared, and with the potential job opportunities in an expanded market place, unemployment in Barbados should decrease significantly.
Edutech is therefore a visionary concept. To recognize that the computer will be an integral communications facility for the next generation, and to effectively prepare and equip an entire Barbadian generation to interact in this way requires vision. The concept is therefore an excellent one and the former Minister of Education, Minister Mottley, should be commended.
The valid concerns about Edutech’s implementation should not be experienced in other stages of the project since past and current experiences should lead to continuous improvements. The expressed opinions that the computer could be learnt on the job or through extracurricular computer courses can be balanced with the knowledge that many jobs are making some form of computer literacy an application requirement, and every student may not be able to afford the cost of the computer courses. Therefore the most effective place to prepare a generation of Barbadians to become computer literate is within the school system.
Edutech therefore provides a wonderful economic opportunity for Barbados and it is an opportunity that should not be squandered. Our schools provide our students with the opportunity to learn, and our students should accept their responsibility to pay attention in the classroom despite ordinary distractions. Parents should also accept their responsibility to encourage their children in this regard. Our students are privileged to have the opportunity to learn a wide range of technical and non-technical subjects and to have the teaching and physical resources available to them to facilitate such learning. However, our students must also have a fair opportunity of learning the subject material.
The coeducational environment is an extraordinary learning environment, and approximately 75 percent of our students have found that this environment is too challenging, despite the relatively high standard of teaching and physical resources. Serious concerns have been raised about the coeducational system over the past 25 years, and various recommendations have been made to improve the system in order to minimize its harmful consequences. A few schools have implemented unisex classrooms with favourable results. However, the majority of schools have made no improvements to the system since its introduction. They seem to be waiting on some guidance from the Ministry of Education before implementing any improvements.
Over the past approximately 30 years, there has been limited relevant statistical data made public to allow anyone to evaluate the magnitude of the effects of co-education. At some school speech days, there are some shocking revelations being made by various principals, and sometimes equally shocking revelations from Ministry of Education officials on some of the challenges within the system. These seem to be indications of a massive problem that needs urgent attention. However, there seems to be a general fear of addressing the problems.
It is hoped that the Ministry of Education will collect and analyse relevant statistical data on Edutech in order to evaluate its performance. Such data should include various heath effects like eye and wrist strain. If these and other problems are found to occur, then they should not be ignored out of a fear that the Edutech system will be dismantled. Instead, they should promptly address the problems, thus ensuring a continuous improvement of the system for the benefit of us all.
Grenville Phillips II