Category Archives: Education

A Building Solution for Homeowners

The process of building a house for most people in Barbados follows these steps.

1.  The homeowner contacts a draughts-person or architect who prepares drawings and an application for Town Planning approval.

2.  The homeowner presents these drawings to a building contractor who provides them with a price, which if accepted, builds what is on the drawings.

3.  The homeowner occupies the house and is frustrated with the numerous and avoidable maintenance issues.

Most homeowners believe that the drawings approved by the Town Planning office contain sufficient information to allow their builder to build a safe and durable house.  This is not so. The drawings approved by Town Planning contain no guidance to the contractor to build safely.  Worse, most builders do not know how to build safely, and most if not all homeowners are oblivious to the fact that most of them occupy houses that will be unsafe during a major earthquake or hurricane.

I have often wondered what many of the 300,000 who died in Haiti thought as their houses, which they truly believed were well constructed, collapsed around them.  I have visited Haiti several times since the earthquake and have spoken with hundreds of survivors.  I understand that the dead have a different experience, but I can postulate that in addition to the fearful dread of impending harm, there was also a stunning shock and bewilderment about how their house, that cost them so much money to build, could be collapsing so dramatically.

Let me reiterate.  The drawings approved by Town Planning provide no guidance whatsoever to the contractor on how to build a safe house.  The homeowner is essentially placing hundreds of thousands of building materials into the hands of persons who generally do not know how to assemble them safely, despite their best efforts.  I have spent over a decade actively lobbying successive Governments to facilitate the safer building of houses, but there has been little change in the quality of residential construction practices.   So what is the homeowners’ solution when no-one is looking out for them?

I have decided to dedicate the next 5 years of my life certifying the competence of persons who are most likely to be responsible for supervising the construction of houses in the Caribbean.  These would include experienced artisans and construction supervisors/foremen.  The certification will be provided through Walbrent College, a Caribbean training institution for builders that is registered with the Barbados Accreditation Council.

If you decide to allow your contractor to build the typical unsafe and high-maintenance house for you, then you and your household will have to live with the consequences of your decision.  However, if you follow these simple steps then you should be OK.

1.  Ask your contractor for the name of their certified supervisor or foreman.

2.  Visit the Trained Persons section of and check whether the named person is among the approximately 200 persons already trained.

3.  If no certified foreman is directing the construction of your house, then insist that the contractor send the person who is responsible for directing the building of your house to the 10-day certification course, which is offered in the evenings (6:00 pm to 8:00 pm).  The course includes an inspection of your site during a critical building activity.

The benefits to you and future homeowners is that you can avoid the typical frustrating maintenance problems, including: leaking pipes, cracked and blown floor tiles, rising damp in walls, cracked walls, and the premature loss of the roof and walls during natural hazards.



My Co-Educational Experience

Dear Readers:

I was sorting some old files when I came across this letter which was published in the year 2000.  This letter started my writing career.



Dear Editor:

I have followed the co-education debate with interest and would like to offer my personal perspective on this multifaceted issue.

I returned to Combermere a few years ago to participate during the Old Scholars’ week of events.  We met with our headmistress, Ms Pile, in her office, and then proceeded to the auditorium.  I recall the combined chatter of hundreds of students as we drew closer, then as Ms Pile led the procession of old scholars into the auditorium, all of the students ceased talking and rose to their feet – I was almost overcome with emotion.

Once the Headmistress had invited the executive members of the CSOSA to be seated on the platform, she approached the microphone.  “Sit please”, and we all sat.  The notices were read, the prayers were said, and the hymn was sung.  Nothing had changed.  My beloved Combermere had retained its character and culture.   Then it was time for the school song.  I could hardly contain myself, for I used to sing in the school choir, and the school song held a special meaning for me then.

Lives are in the making here
Hearts are in the waking here
Mighty undertaking here
Up and on, up and on.

I can attest that these words are true, and what meaning they hold for me now.  As we sang the chorus, I could control my emotion no longer and wept for the first time in 15 years.

Up then! Truest fame lies in high endeavour
Play the game, keep the flame burning brightly ever

It is out of my love for this school, and its current and former students and teachers, and because I deeply treasure the memories and appreciate its culture that I feel compelled to provide my perspective.  To those who would hitherto be offended I offer my sincerest apologies.

I entered Combermere one year prior to the arrival of the girls and was placed in Lower 1D.  I vividly remember the authoritative yet simple manner in which teachers like Mr Roach who taught me English, and was affectionately known as Spoon (however not called that to his face by anyone who respected him), and Mr Sealy who taught me mathematics, were able to convey information.  Then there was our lone female teacher, Ms Jebodsingh from whom I learnt geography and integrity.

I distinctly remember the final day of the second term, happening upon young Hugh, who was weeping.  I inquired the reason for his apparent distress to which he replied that he had placed 8th in class.  I queried what was wrong with that, seeing as how I had placed 27th out of a class of 29 boys.  He bemoaned the fact that the previous term, he had placed 3rd.  There was also young Riley who I believe placed first, however both Riley and Hugh retook the 11+ Common Entrance exam later that year and subsequently left Combermere for HC.

Those were the days when boys seemed eager to learn.  When our teachers asked a question, one answered without hesitation.  Regardless of the answer, something was learnt, and even if I was incorrect, to be called upon was an honour, and the attempt itself was an achievement.

From Lower 1D, we went to form Upper 1F.  The school song was changed from “Up boys” to “Up then”, new bathrooms had been constructed for the girls, and although there were no girls in our class, the subject of much of the conversation centred around them.  However, learning continued and I distinctly remember the feelings of accomplishment in finally grasping the fundamentals of set theory and algebra, which I have not forgotten to this day.

For 2 years, whenever my father drove past Combermere, usually on our way to church, I would sit up and salute the school.  Why would an 11-year-old boy do such a thing that some may deem lunatic?  I suppose that I just loved the school.

We graduated to form 2G where the girls joined us.  They abolished the lower/upper first forms that year, and with the girls sitting so close, learning for me was difficult.  Puberty found me fascinated with these girls.  I can recall little of what I learned from forms 2 to 5, but I clearly recall being unable to concentrate in any of my classes except technical drawing and industrial arts.

I had no problem running around at lunchtime and entering the class perspiring.  A favourite sport would be to run behind a football with a few hundred other boys from first to sixth forms, all hoping to kick it.  It was like a stampede, and for the whole lunch period I only managed to kick the ball two or three times, but what satisfaction each kick provided.  I suppose the satisfaction was partially derived from just playing with the 5th and 6th formers, the men of the school.

I don’t recall being ridiculed much for answering a question incorrectly, but I know that I stopped asking questions after Upper 1F, even when I desperately wanted to.  Many times I was completely out to sea but was afraid to reveal my ignorance to the girls, some of whom I found rather attractive.

To sit next to a girl who I found attractive was a pleasurable yet painful experience.  For our eyes to make contact resulted in my heart feeling as if it were literally melting, and I had to look away.  Of course nothing was learned during that class period as I struggled to keep my heart rate down.  If she would happen to talk to me, then the whole day was lost, for I was usually too shocked and afraid to respond intelligently, and spent the rest of the day rehearsing some words to tell her – although I never had the courage to.

There were some boys who seemed to have no fear of revealing their ignorance to, or conversing with the girls.  They were generally the ones who also boasted about tasting the forbidden fruit.  Having not tasted such fruit untill I was married, I now understand the confidence and boldness such fruit provides a man; however, tasting such fruit before the proper time appeared to only provide illusionary achievement for those boys.  Those boys who boasted in 2nd and 3rd form were notably absent from 5th form.  Those who boasted in 5th form were not with me in 6th form.  Those who succumbed to the temptation in 6th were not with me at University.  And those who succumbed while pursuing their Bachelor’s degree were not with me while I pursued my Masters.

The temptations were real enough.  Some girls seemed bent on provoking the boys.  In 4th and 5th form, some would walk around without bras on, which effectively negated any serious study that day or night, followed by much anxiety the following day as one hurried to school hoping for a repeat performance.

Admittedly, such temptations were also present at university, where some girls (usually arts students) seemed determined to have intimate relations.  One turned up outside my dormitory room at 3:00am scantly clad and proposed sexual intercourse; however, by this time I was emotionally mature enough to respond properly – I politely declined.  However to force boys and girls to go through puberty in a sexually explosive environment, with the sorry excuse that they must all learn to get along, is just not right.

I believe that co-education may have an appearance of success for those studying the literary arts, where the general understanding of such material requires more personal study outside of the classroom.  For one does not need to read the entire English literature or foreign language text in the classroom to grasp the meaning.  However, every fundamental of mathematics, chemistry, and physics must be grasped to understand the more advanced subject matter derived from it.  To understand the rudiments of geometry and algebra require undivided attention, and the only way that I have survived to tell the tale is that from 3rd to 5th form, I spent my summer holidays reading the assigned science text books at home.

It is my opinion that this issue of co-education, while multi-faceted, is much less complex than some are proposing.  For at the end of the day, it is about a boy going through puberty, struggling to grasp the fundamentals of algebra, with an attractive girl sitting next to him, fascinating his heightened sense with her perfume, and distracting him with her skirt raised half way up her thigh.  Do we seriously expect our lads to learn anything?

I respect the learned opinions of Dean Critchlow, former Principal Blackman, and Principal Keith Griffith, and I hope that my perspective can be of some value to the debate.  Perhaps some thought can given to segregating the classrooms in September 2000, and if this seems too bold a step, then perhaps at least the science classes can be segregated.

Permit me to offer my apologies the current students of Combermere, for if someone would have recommended segregating the classes while I was a student, I would have deemed him a spoilsport.

Foes in plenty we shall meet
Hearts courageous scorn defeat
So we press with eager feet
Up and on, up and on.
Ever upward to the fight
Ever upward to the light
Ever true to God and Right
Up and on, up and on.

Choosing A Career

Dear Readers:

I am addressing this article to students who are in their final year of secondary school and who may be feeling a little anxious about their futures at this time.  People thinking about choosing another career can also benefit.

Choosing a career can be a daunting task.  You may be in the career that you choose for the next 40 years of your life, so you should not choose carelessly.  Allow me to suggest the following selection method.

1.  Identify your Aptitudes First, I would suggest that you identify your aptitudes. They may be several things.  Identifying your aptitudes can be challenging since you must give each subject a fair chance.  Please do not judge your aptitude by the grades that you have received at school; they can be poor aptitude indicators.  A few examples may suffice here.1. You may not think that you like music if you were only taught music theory, but you may excel if you learnt to play an instrument “by ear’.

2. Similarly, you may not think that you like foreign languages, like Spanish, but you may excel if you learnt conversational Spanish.

3. You may find science subjects challenging; however, try reading your science texts from the first chapter until the end and you may be surprised at how easy the subject really is.

2.  Identify your Motives

After you have identified your aptitudes, identify some jobs that you think that you would find attractive.  Write them down and then ask your self, “Why do I want to do this job”. i.e. try to identify your motives. If your motive is principally to make money, then you may have identified the wrong job for you.  If your motive is principally care, then you may have identified the right job for you.  You must care about what you do rather than simply doing a good job and getting paid for your services.

3.  Get some Experience

It may be useful if you worked for a company (it can be a company of one) who offered the service that you found attractive. If they are not hiring, then offer to work for them for one month for free, explaining to them that you see it as an investment (and it is). If you have made that agreement, then DO NOT QUIT!  If you do quit, then that decision may follow you for the rest of your life. If you do not think that you can last one month without pay, then agree to work for one or two week without pay. Remember to explain that you are trying to choose a career, and therefore, you want to work in an environment that will help you to decide.

4.  Ask God to Guide You

Our national anthem states: “The Lord has been the people’s guide …”.  You are one of those people and therefore have the right to ask God for guidance.  However, while God provides the direction, you must provide the thrust and momentum.  The thrust, or the initial movement, is accomplished in the first three steps until you can secure any type of job.  The momentum is provided by you working with conscientious dedication to achieve the highest standards of competence at that job, even if it is one that you do not like.

When you are ready, God will guide you into the responsibilities that He has for you.  Therefore do not hold on too tightly to any one position of responsibility.  If someone else wants your job, then let them have it.  God will take care of you if you let Him.

Best regards,


Education Technology

Dear Readers:

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

An Agenda for the Ministry of Education

Dear Readers:

Agendas are useful tools that can help us to remain focused on our plans. Without agendas, we could easily become distracted with extraneous issues and fail to achieve our goals. If agendas are followed, then the path is clearer and although there may be challenges in addressing various intermediate items, the knowledge that such items are only temporary can be comforting.

There is confidence when following an agenda, especially for leaders facing opposition from those who are being led. An agenda can assist them as they persevere upon the agreed path through the expected and unexpected challenges towards the expected results.

Before leading persons into the “promised land”, it is prudent for leaders to seek consensus on the agenda from the community of followers and to explain the expected results. It is more challenging to do so during the temporary disappointments of failed expectations that may be experienced along the journey. History is littered with disillusioned participants of failed exploits who had no knowledge of their leader’s agenda.

Sometimes it is necessary to revise or completely abandon an agenda when new information makes agenda items or the entire agenda irrelevant. This takes courage since the leader risks ridicule. However, revisiting an agenda is obligatory if the agenda that was designed for the community’s benefit is later found to be incompatible with the community’s positive development.

All government ministries should have agendas. One item on the Ministry of Education’s agenda is secondary school co-education. Over 25 years of co-education in Barbados’ secondary schools has shown that it is incompatible for learning for the majority of our students. However, there is an unwillingness by the Ministry of Education to revisit their agenda.

The physiological differences between boy’s and girl’s brains are stark. Due to limited connecting fibres between boys’ left and right brain hemispheres, they find it challenging to concentrate on more than one thing at a time. During the puberty years, boys have a novel experience of finding girls fascinating and when given the choice to impress a girl or to pay attention to classroom studies, boys will tend to try to impress the girl. Girls are able to concentrate on conversing with boys and studying at the same time, as a result of the significantly greater number of connections between their left and right brain hemispheres.

Boys also mature emotionally, mentally, and physically later than girls, therefore teaching and grading boys and girls at the same age level is blatantly unfair to boys. A relatively simple cost effective solution is to place secondary school boys and girls in separate classrooms. The knowledge of the physiological differences between boys and girls, and the relatively poor performance of most of our boys has not resulted in a change to the Ministry’s agenda. However, the charge that our boys should simply try harder and learn to get along demonstrates an appalling level of ignorance.

A common strategy used by persons who are intent on maintaining their agenda, despite obvious critical flaws, is to proclaim the complexity of the issues and to call for additional studies to justify no action. This is typically coupled with a dismissive arrogance towards commonsense solutions, which are generally regarded as simplistic. History has shown that most effective solutions are actually quite simplistic and commonsense.

There is evidence of the general destructive nature of secondary school co-education on boys’ aptitude, yet the evidence does not result in a change in the Ministry’s agenda. It is very difficult to justify pursuing the failed policy of co-education with its largely negative consequences for learning and its obvious disadvantages to boys. It is also challenging to understand how the Cabinet of Barbados can continue to sanction such a failed system.

For the past 25 years we have been forced to follow an agenda. One item on this agenda is the perpetuation of a system of co-education, which has shown to be generally incompatible with learning and disadvantageous to boys. The Ministry of Education has resisted revising their agenda, despite their own admission that approximately 70% to 75% of our secondary school students leave school without a single examination certificate. This suggests that secondary school co-education is a critical part of an agenda that we are forced to follow. Perhaps it is time for the Ministry of Education to explain this agenda.


Grenville Phillips II

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.

Dear University Students

Dear University Students:

As you prepare to enter or return to university, please receive the following advice based upon my observations during my time at university.

1. Be yourself.
Being in a new environment where nobody knows you can provide you with the temptation to pretend to be someone whom you are not, simply to become accepted into a particular group. Please overcome this temptation quickly, otherwise you may find yourself emotionally exhausted which will negatively impact on your effort to study. It is beneficial to attempt to change your behaviour to eliminate some unhealthy habit, but attempting to change your personality can be a tiring and embarrassing exercise.

2. Have a positive attitude about learning.
Developing and maintaining a positive attitude about your studies can make learning pleasurable instead of something to be endured. This attitude should be maintained especially for subjects that you do not believe are directly applicable to your chosen career path.

3. Listen to classical music.
Listening to long complex classical musical renditions can help to train your mind to receive sustained complex information that you must receive from your professor or from your technical textbook.

4. Study under different conditions.
If you find that you have difficulty concentrating, then try modifying your study environment. Try a quiet library or a crowded cafeteria or a comfortable common room. Also try studying in rooms with walls of different colours and spaces with varying light intensities. Keep trying until you find the right environment for you.

5. Understand the information.
Make an effort to understand the information conveyed to you rather than simply attempting to remember it. If you only remember it, then it will be retained as information in your brain. However if you understand it, then it will become knowledge to you, and when impacted by wisdom can yield something creative. If you have difficulty understanding the information, then ask your professor to explain it again, read the introductory chapters in the textbook, read a rudimentary prerequisite textbook from the library, but please don’t settle for remembering just to pass an exam, strive to understand.

6. Resist peer pressure.
I have witnessed quite a few Caribbean students, including Barbadians, who failed to overcome the temptation to use drugs, and never got to complete their studies. Don’t worry about what others are doing, resist the peer pressure.

7. Don’t become distracted from the goal.
After you have graduated, there is plenty of time to seek a mate. When I entered university, I met a fellow Caribbean student in his second year of study who would not resist the temptations of the local girls. He finally got one pregnant. Ten years later, he had 3 children and was still struggling to finish his first degree while working to support his family. Girl (boy) friends are significant distractions to serious studying if the relationship becomes intimate.

8. Mature as a person.
Spend these years wisely. Participate in sporting events, develop friendships (not intimate ones) with people from other parts of the world, become an active member of one of the student organisations, and join a nearby Church.

9. Know the Lord.
You may be attending a university in a country where the Lord is not exalted to the same degree that He is here. He may have been many years ago, but their current generation may have rejected the God of their grandparents and chosen for themselves gods of money, beer, and sexual gratification. It is vitally important therefore that you develop and maintain a close relationship with the Lord Jesus. If you spend time communing with your Creator, who has all knowledge, then you can only benefit.

10. Don’t get caught up with causes.
There is a lot wrong with the world, and the world needs people who can articulate the problems and propose solutions. Your time at university will provide you with some tools used in defining problems and designing solutions. However don’t become embroiled in activism. It is not your time yet. Some circumvent the process and become activists too early, long before they have been taught the tools of designing solutions. They therefore run the risk of constantly being negative and critical and unable to propose workable solutions, only idealist jargon.

I wish you good success in your studies and trust that you will be patient in your academic learning and personal development.