And we’re off… 2019, the new year is well and truly underway. But one wonders if the new year brings a new fresh perspective or more of the same old thing.
For many, a new year usually brings some introspection, reflection and commitment to do better, or at least differently. In other words, there is an individual reset that a new year brings. Since the year started, there’ve been a few occasions on which, I think, the T&T reset button should be engaged.
I have often commented on the state of education nationally and, in so doing, reflected on whether the national returns on the education investment—based on annual budget allocations—should give us some reason to pause and press the education reset button in T&T.
To my surprise there it was at the start of a new year, and coming from the highest authority in the land, Madame President.
According to the story carried in a daily newspaper, Her Excellency had said “the school curriculum is not delivering the quality of individuals we need to build the nation”.
Madame President also reportedly lamented the “…multi-degreed people in the nation who are … selfish, inconsiderate, greedy, uncaring and amoral… [lacking] the empathetic bonds necessary to make them valuable people…”.
Her Excellency’s statement resonates with many nationally but also has global resonance— educational institutions around the world accept that their output, graduates at any level, contribute to shaping the moral fabric that is the cornerstone of a society. If the output from the education system is not contributing positively to a better society then there is need for a reset.
Last year I had the opportunity to visit a well-known university in Costa Rica. It was a purely academic mission—to watch and learn what that university was doing that was causing young people from across the globe to gravitate to the Central American institution. After all, they were coming to read a degree in Agriculture, and in Spanish to boot.
While meeting with university administrators, I was struck by the school’s mission—their core values that they inculcate in their students— to “prepare leaders with ethical values to contribute to the sustainable development and to construct a prosperous and just society”.
I was impressed, not only by what was written but also by the stories recounted by the students. Here were young people—between the ages of 18 and 25 and some of whom were from the African and Asian continents—left their homes and families to attend a university that espoused an ethos of service and volunteerism.
Education comes in various forms and can either be formal or informal. Education sometimes is also ‘forced’ in the form of public policy and law, to evoke a change in behaviour.
Our Jamaican neighbours for example, have taken a policy decision to educate its citizenry on the environmental impact of plastic and Styrofoam and thereby forcing changes in how its citizens treat the environment.
On my first visit to Jamaica decades ago, I was introduced to the concept of a ‘scandal bag’—a regular, black or white, plastic shopping bag as we know it in T&T. I never quite knew why Jamaicans called it a scandal bag.
The Jamaican Government announced in 2018 that the environmental reset button would be engaged to reduce the amount of environmentally degrading single-use shopping bags, plastic straws and Styrofoam that ended up either as litter or in its water courses.
A ban on the use of these would come into effect January 1, 2019. Read more on this at http://jamaica-gleaner.com/article/news/20180917/govt-bans-single-use-shopping-bags-plastic-straws-styrofoam-effective-january
So said so done, and as the new year started a Jamaican businessman found himself in some multimillion dollar “hot water” after he allegedly attempted to import a shipment of plastic bags in breach of the ban imposed—talk about reset!
We in Trinbago have often lamented that plastics and Styrofoam cause significant clogging of our waterways, with the resulting flooding disasters. That knowledge notwithstanding, we haven’t yet had the gumption to press our own reset button as the Jamaicans have.
There are many other spheres of national goings-on in which we have not taken the time to pause, reflect and reset. Resetting allows us to correct and avoid errors made in the past. In 2019, that’s still my point of view!