By Leela Ramdeen, Chair, CCSJ, & Director, CREDI. Visit rcsocialjusticett.org for our columns, media releases and more.
“World Youth Skills Day is calling on global communities to engage youth to identify types of investments needed to support youth skills development. Together we can all make a difference in youth and skill development and work towards creating a more sustainable future for all” (World Bank Group).
Today, Sunday July 15, marks World Youth Skills Day. Is T&T equipping our youth with the knowledge, skills, competencies, values and attitudes they need to function effectively and efficiently in the 21st century? I don’t think so!
I remember when I was studying for my Master’s Degree in education in London, we discussed the issue of the ‘sabre-tooth curriculum’. In short, it referred to educators delivering a curriculum that did not meet the needs of today’s students. The sabre-tooth tiger is extinct, yet, the curriculum referred to on my course was teaching students how to catch these tigers!
I am sure that many of our educators don’t have the technological skills and competencies that our youth of today possess. I recall being amazed at the speed with which my 3-year-old great-nephew in London could manoeuvre his iPad to find exactly which story or rhyme he wanted to access.
And years ago, when I had to critique two presentations written in Spanish, and was experiencing difficulties, as my Spanish is not up to scratch, my 7 year-old great-niece laughed saying: “Aunty Leela, haven’t you heard of Google translate?”. Although the translation is not always correct, this tool helped me enormously. Today there are many modern platforms with translation tools. As my sister told me then: “Today’s children are ‘wired’ differently.”
We live in an interconnected, technologically advanced world and many of us are experiencing difficulty keeping up with technology. God knows how many parents are unable to assist their children with their schoolwork.
This is why I agree with the late Prof John Spence who rightly said that where there are gaps in parenting, the school must strive to fill those gaps. This is not to say that parents should abrogate their responsibilities, but inevitably, there may be areas where schools must “take up the slack”.
How effective, for example, is ICT training in our schools? I understand that there are still a few places in T&T where internet access is limited. Can we level the playing field?
My friend’s daughter asked me to comment on her CV before she submitted it to various companies, as she is seeking summer employment in London. She admitted that she developed many of her amazing skills and competencies, for example, her digital literacy proficiency, outside of the school setting. Our youth need assistance in recording their skills and capacities in ways that will make their applications for jobs “stand out”.
It was Mahatma Gandhi who said: “The future depends on what you do today.” What are we doing today to ensure that our education system is equipping our youth to meet the challenges of today’s fast-paced world?
Textbooks and blackboards are still the staple diet in many of our schools. Our education system continues to fail too many of our children, and yet, we keep teaching the “sabre-tooth curriculum”.
Even as we celebrate the achievements of the top 200 students who sat the SEA, I posit that what they had to endure was not the best strategy for organising a placement exercise in T&T.
And then we have the trauma being experienced by the 2,595 plus students who scored less than 30 per cent – 13.6 per cent of the 19,185 pupils who sat the exams this year.
Let’s not play the blame game but put our heads together to address the many factors that lead to underachievement, as well as the obstacles that stand in the way of our young people’s creativity, innovation and lifelong learning.
I urge Chambers of Industry and Commerce to work with our Government to ensure that training programmes to prepare youth for life/the world of work include skills that are relevant to the labour market/future jobs.
We all need to play our part if we are to promote integral human development in our beloved country, that is, the development of each person and of each dimension of the person.
Each youth is a gift from God. He/she comes into this world with great potential. Our responsibility as adults is to invest in youth and to create conditions for them to realise their potential and to flourish.