Education system needs an overhaul

Mother Mary Ellerker’s legacy for Christian unity
January 18, 2019
Prayer – Covenant and Communion
January 20, 2019

Education system needs an overhaul

By Leela Ramdeen, Chair, CCSJ, & Director, CREDI
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On Thursday (January 24) the world will observe the first UN International Day of Education. The right to education is enshrined in a number of documents, particularly in article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in The Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The Sustainable Development Goal 4 aims by 2030, to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all…about 265 million children and adolescents around the world do not have the opportunity to enter or complete school. More than a fifth of them are of primary school age. They are thwarted by poverty, discrimination, armed conflict, emergencies and the effects of climate change. Migration and forcible displacement also affect the achievement of the education goals” (UN).

I agree with Her Excellency, President Paula-Mae Weekes, when she said during the President’s Medal Award Ceremony 2018, that: “it is time to do a complete overhaul of the education system if we are to have any chance of producing the individuals that we want and need to lead this country into the future”.

I note that Education Minister Anthony Garcia has welcomed her call and states that the Ministry “continues to work to ensure access, quality, and equity in education for all students”.

While we will all welcome a Revised Education Policy: “aimed at the effective governance and administration of the education system; access to educational opportunities by all learners; and provision of quality education at all levels,” as a nation, we desperately need to move from policy to implementation, monitoring and evaluation.

No piece of paper will address the lottery that currently exists regarding who receives some form of “quality education” and who does not. During my many years in the UK, I fought for the rights of all children, particularly those from black and minority ethnic communities, to have access to quality education.

I was one of the Inspectors of Schools in the Inner London Education Authority involved in the development and implementation of policies to address issues of race, sex and class. And later, as Deputy Director of Education/Head of Quality Assurance in a London Borough, I continued the struggle.

For years I worked with Prof John Spence and members of T&T’s Education Discussion Group to raise awareness of strategies to enhance our education system. Efforts to promote integral human development in T&T, that is, the development of each person and of every dimension of the person, continue to fail many.

Can we truly say that our system is geared to promote the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes that students of all ages need to prepare them for life, work and citizenship? Are we setting students up to fail? Who cares about those who drop out? If we fail to invest in education in a meaningful way, we will all suffer the consequences. And is there efficiency and effectiveness in education financing in TT?

The education writer, Valerie Strauss says: “Critical thinking, creativity, interpersonal skills and a sense of social responsibility all influence success in life, work and citizenship.” She shares some of the policies and classroom features that support education for life, work and citizenship.

Take heed of her words: “… real sustainable improvement depends on addressing inequity in areas such as well-paid employment, health care, food, and housing security. You can’t have one without the others” (Washington Post, 2015). And let’s consider the effectiveness of “plant”, resources, curriculum—including the hidden curriculum, home/school/community links etc.

The World Bank’s A Caribbean Education Strategy is worth reading. It states: “What is not now clear is the extent to which education systems are exacerbating the problem of social inequity. There is evidence to suggest that there is considerable stratification of schools and variability of inputs. In general, poorer students in urban as well as in rural areas attend schools which receive fewer and lesser quality resources. In terms of the curricula and learning materials, teaching staff and their families cannot afford the supplementary resources which the more well-to-do can provide when school resources are limited…

“This, compounded with a home environment, which, in most cases, does not reinforce skills being taught at school, may account for the high level of underachievement and attrition amongst the economically and socially disadvantaged groups…These inequities are not only manifest as under-achievement but also in the rapidly rising juvenile delinquency and crime rates; reduced productivity and lower incomes of the population affected.”

Let’s not exclude white-collar crime from the mix!