A Look At Secondary Level Education

Submitted by Looking Glass

Education by itself cannot transform a country without natural resources and or strategic location from a basically commercial economy into a fully developed country, at least not development as measured by the developed world. Even their high levels of unemployment, underemployment, skewed income distribution and poverty exist. But education structured to the country’s socio-economic capability and partly to the world beyond can and would go a long to make life and living easier providing people are prepared and content to live within their means; a standard that would enable comfort and dignity (Social Implications of Education and Economic Development)

Our secondary system promotes learning via memorization and retention not innovation or creativity. Generally the subjects taught are by their nature finite and unlike physical or social sciences offer no room for innovation or creativity. This is not to say some should not be taught.

The scientific, technological and commercial revolutions have no doubt increased the value of broad, many faceted general and occupational education and training that require fresh formulation of the curriculum. Even in the developed world changes are taking place in the substance and structure of education as well as in the organization, social and technical prerequisites and the function of the school. If education is to transform the country traditional learning must be supplemented with experimental, innovative learning and local history not African/black history. For the former genuine learning, not memorization, can be derived from praxes rooted in our historical struggle. The latter as regurgitated mixes some truths with fiction, among other things supports the inferiority complex, and there is no demand for it in the job market.

Kids differ not only in ability but in ‘interests’ and so need exposure to a multi-faceted school environment. Traditional secondary level curriculum should be reformulated to include introductory business related subjects like bookkeeping, management and science in all the schools. It will enhance employment possibilities and induce positive pursuit in areas amenable to their own interests and ability. It also requires both environment and exposure.

Today in a scientific high-tec era we don’t even have a proper science laboratory to enable kids and others to investigate, research and experiment. The one we have is an ancient excuse available only at Harrison College students which is a form of discrimination. And Latin an essential for science and technology is no longer taught at least in some schools. Am I to understand that kids from the other high schools are intellectually inferior or lack the smarts for science? We need at least one laboratory to enable students and others to research, experiment and to foster creativity.

Curriculum at the vocational level should be organized and diversified to include to technical subjects and agricultural farming. Food products like broccoli, cauliflower, beans, celery and other green North American and European staples can be produced chemically free for local consumption and to service the hotel industry. Such will generate employment, reduce the import bill and support health. A more functional relationship between educational, the labour market is needed to reduce ongoing diminishing returns of education to both man and country

Creativity and pursuit of curiosity require exposure to information and facilities. Many of the world’s great inventions, like businesses, were created by average souls in an environment with facilities to enable them to pursue their ‘curiosity.’ The grapefruit was ‘created’ in Barbados, so too Buckley’s cough mixture. The Aloe Vera (Aloes) we once made is now a health product widely sold in many forms around the world. In Canada a fifteen year old boy working in the kitchen combined Aloes with other substances to develop a product for dry skin and to protect dog’s feet in the winter and in so doing created a market.

Take cricket. Too poor to afford proper equipment we created Marble Cricket and suitable equipment; played with a hopping (tennis) ball and sometimes a long cane or stick for a bat. Thanks to the environment the era produced some of the world’s greatest in Sir Garry, the three Weekes, Worrell, Walcott, Charlie Griffith and others. Science in all high schools and a proper science lab or two could produce similar results.

Social aspects apart sport/games can supplement formal learning in terms of leadership, innovation, creativity, organization and management. Lawn tennis and baseball are two of the highest paid professions in the world. Compared to cricket the cost is cheap. We should consider introducing them in schools as an after school and weekend activity and or establish a facility for all kids.

That some teachers are without professional qualifications (Advocate 2, 27, 2011) is a fact. But are we blaming teachers for the system shortcomings? Qualifications in and of themselves do not make good or great teachers, not even at the university level. Kids with varying ability and background require much more than delivering a lesson. Teaching is an art that involves socio-physiological variables many of which are not addressed in professional training including the social responsibility of the population.

That said in the past the system with few qualified teachers produced great scholars, significant others and was ranked among the best in the world. Things have changed. Come CXC and some scholars have been Rusticated in the UK and one kicked out of a second rate US university primarily for behavioural problems. The extent to which teachers can or should be blamed for these outcomes is another matter.

0 thoughts on “A Look At Secondary Level Education

  1. I must say, I enjoyed reading this article.
    Having said that, Barbadian & Jamaican children always excel when they leave their country of birth for countries like the US & UK.
    Barbadian nurses here in the UK are noted to be among the best nurses. Though equipment was limited during training, the quality of training we were exposed to, afforded us a firm foundation & we were able to build on this when exposed to the work force.
    As nurses in Barbados, we often had 2-3 nurses on a ward at the Psychiatric Hospital, looking after 60-65 patients at one given time. All duties were completed at the end of shift & all patients were accounted for & handed over to the next shift.
    Our kids were considered well behaved & disciplined, compared to kids who were born in the UK. The always gained better grades then the other kids who were in the system from birth & took full advantage of their education.
    One thing I made note of recently, is that Barbadians who wanted to pursue careers in Law & Medicine were forced to leave our shores & go to countries such as the UK, Jamaica, Trinidad, etc.
    Is there not room in our University for this?
    Education in the UK is quite poor & students are coached to pass exams. Much information is downloaded from the internet & handed out to students to regurgitate. There is too much unnecessary red tape involved in almost every living thing in the UK.
    The level of Health Care in the UK is quite poor; hygiene standards in some hospitals are non existent, causing much loss of life or (further complications to an already ill health), to diseases such as MRSA etc.
    I am grateful for the good foundation I received from my education in Barbados, though we have a long way to go in improving the system, Barbadians are still considered among the best educated in the world.

  2. @Dawn..”Barbadian & Jamaican children always excel when they leave their country of birth for countries like the US & UK.”

    What happened to the ones that stayed at home? We need to change the way we educate. Educations does not mean we have basic commonsense. Certification does not certify we have commonsense. We have a serious problem with transferring of skills. We have to teach our children how to transfer their skills from the classroom to the real world. Take for instance, a tradesman learns how to build a pine wood box. He can build that boxes really well in fact he is master of building boxes in pine wood. Ask him to build a several boxes that are joined together out of say cedar or oak wood. He will say that he has never built a box like that and that he only knows about pinewood. We have failed this guy by not letting and showing him that his skills can take him further than pine wood boxes. Many workers cannot see themselves doing anything differently than what they have been doing for the past 30 years or so. We expect that children will learn the same way we did 30 years ago using the same techniques.

  3. Well stated by all. Educated at Combermere, devoid of anything fostering use of the imagination, but while there encountered 2 other students who were radio experimenters and that was what got me started and curious.
    Arriving in the UK 1st. June 1960, on 3rd. June I attended the weekly meeting of the Slade Radio Society in Birmingham. A 12+ year old introduced himself and we got discussing radio topics – my initial thoughts were that this kid knew almost as much as I did, then shock horror, the kid started discussing a topic with another club member in his 40’s and I realised the kid knew more than I did. That was a wake-up call, I had to forge ahead and get an education which happened to be more in-depth and acted as a springboard to higher things. What followed was a very interesting and fulfilling career in the computer industry, culminating a position where I was providing consultancy and support to the largest customers on the planet on the largest and most complex computer systems ever developed as well as working in development and teaching of those systems to Engineers, software Engineers and marketing executives – from guys with PhD’s downwards.
    On one occasion our UK technical support manager approached our specialist group to formulate a plan to cope with the hundreds of millions of pounds worth of orders expected. We agreed we didn’t have the resources to cope and rather than using our high salaried Engineers, we would hire a team of installation guys to do the grunt work led by one senior engineer and we specialists together with senior engineers would do the final bring up and commissioning.
    The plan went well, there were the same nice benefits for the installation guys – a good basic starting salary, company car with free fuel, travel, medical insurance for the family, meals and hotel expenses (the best), further training and career advancement possibilities.
    These posts were advertised in local newspapers and in job centres UK wide, so we got a good team that performed.
    One day my manager came into my office looking rather perplexed and asked me if I knew why they had not been one black applicant and I had to tell him his guess was as good as mine – I still haven’t the first clue why black guys wouldn’t have seen that as a golden opportunity – advertised as no computer experience necessary.
    Working all over Europe and North America, I’ve counted only less than half a dozen black guys in the profession across all the major computer companies and at my last company there were only 4 of us in my 25 years with the corporation, 2 Americans, 1 Jamaican and myself the Barbadian.
    Now retired, I am engaged in several collaborative projects with guys in Europe, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, Singapore, Japan and South America, thanks to the internet, but sadly there is not one person involved in the Caribbean, almost as though there is no curiosity, imagination or interest.
    The road ahead to sustainable development and advancement is there on a plate to be had, all it needs is desire and commitment. It requires teachers, not regurgitators who learned by rote and teach by rote, to stimulate the curiosity of their students to produce the quality of those I’ve had the pleasure of mentoring and working with in Europe.

    Not that everyone in Europe is without fault, I have had detractors when I seemingly stepped out of orthodoxy, but some have had the humility to admit they didn’t foresee the impact of the stuff I had been doing that’s now become mainstream and I’m glad to be still invaluable in passing on what I know, still learning new things and helping people across the world – google on Sid Boyce and see some of the wealth of stuff out there from me.
    I have never let anyone tell me I can’t do anything I set my mind to do.
    With the self-belief, with the can-do ethic and dedication, youth in the Caribbean can – sink your teeth into something and like a rotweiller don’t let go.

  4. @Sid

    Thanks for that testimonial of sorts which is really an indictment on how we have been educating our people; an army of clerks for the most part. The sad thing is we keep patting ourselves on the back that we are ok where we find ourselves in 2011.

  5. @Sid

    Great contribution to the discussion, thank you.
    I’ve been thinking a lot recently about were the world is now in the so called information revolution. In the last few years open source has really come into its own, I wonder are we doing enough in Barbados to leverage cloud computing? The internet doesn’t care if your country is 166 square miles, or has 300,000 people on it. In a sense the nation (diaspora included) that exists in cyberspace can be much larger and far more influential…than physical reality. As a small island are we missing a golden opportunity?

    A national WAN project at the secondary level might be the right catalyst…..just a thought.

    E.g Eva Vertes got started in microbiology at 14 when she applied as a volunteer to local universities to do research. Only one professor replied, and offered her an opportunity. At age 17 she discovered a compound that stops fruit fly brain cells from dying….considered a major breakthrough in the fight against Alzheimer’s, how many like Eva is Barbados overlooking?

  6. @AOD there is national WAN project that suppose to get started on March 31. I don’t think they are involving school so that might key suggestion to getting some knowledge passed on to the younger generation. Currently the project call for 802.11 network island wide. As such i really don’t see the it working that way. It would be easier to expand the wimax network for total island area. This of course would mean we need the wimax usb dongles to be part of wan network i think that would be fair exchange for the ease of setup and launch of the network. The problem will of course be getting enough fiber bw to the wimax site but that more logistical problem for digi/lime/telebarbados.

  7. About 18 years ago my husband and I approached the ministry of Education Science department to start butterfly gardens in schools. The science officers were excited because this is a chance for children to take part in a project that would interest them and make them curious. We suggested that we start in both the primary and secondary schools. My husband a former teacher in the USA had done some research around Barbados and had seen that we are a butterfly poor country. We did a study mapping butterfly habitats around the island. We identified the ones that were destructive to agriculture, the great southern white butterfly which feeds on cabbage and its family was the only butterfly pest. The others mainly the monarch, sulphur, gulf fertillary, buckeye and the orion were harmless. Their larva fed only on wild plants. Many children have never seen the full life cycle of a butterfly and many adults as well, This was a great opportunity to bring science alive. Well we were told that we would be breeding pest by the head of the Science dept at the Ministry of Education. He also said that we have an ulterior motive and we wanted to make money. We even told him that we would seek funding if the ministry approved this project We contacted the head biologist at the UWI in Trinidad for further information on whether these insects will evolve and eat other plants knowing full well that they didn’t. His response by letter was that if these particular butterflies evolved and start eating other plants then camels can grow wings and fly. Well the project was squashed because the head of the science dept a Mr. Marville, had warned the head of the science council that they were to prevent this project from happening. They never attended the meeting. I sent copies of my project to the Ministry of environment without a response from the minister. If this is the thinking at the top how can we we move forward. Jamaica protects their butterflies, Trinidad and Tobago have a wildlife centre for butterflies and birds. We have done work for the philatelic bureau providing them with photos and documentation on the butterflies of Barbados for their stamp issue on butterflies a few years ago. I have also done a post on the Orion Butterfly with photos that were never seen on the web of the stages of this butterfly
    We have to make learning exciting for children and they will want to know more. The system is backward and lacks vision for our population. I wonder if it is fear of losing control?

  8. Some wonderful contributions so far. What is clearly evident is how the education budget is currently allocated to feed a model long past its shelf life. The model needs to be realigned to give us the best chance to respond to national priorities.

  9. @anthony

    We are still waiting on 3G…is it logistics or cartel/duopoly stifling of innovation while raking in the profits on ancient architecture? When ever I hear a schedule that depends on lime/digicel I cringe. But always the optimist, maybe this time will be different. Wimax has the potential to cover us now but LTE may provide more “shelf life” because you never ever have enough, bandwidth or memory 🙂

  10. From what i here/know both could roll out service any day now but why they don’t is a mystery. The end spec for both wimax and lte have about the same top end bandwidth. Don’t really care about who get it once it gets done right ?

  11. I am a product of the old Barbados Technical Institute, and when I left these shore in the “60’s, and went off to the mother country, it was then that I realize the high level of both Secondary and Technical education that we were exposed to back in Barbados. I had the honour of attending a couple of courses at one of the finest technical institutions in the UK, and because of my grounding in Barbados, I , on all occasions excelled.

  12. @David,

    This is an excellent article and I am disappointed that many haven’t responded. I would love to hear from teachers and past students of our secondary schools on how they think that our education system can be improved.

    Another thing I would like to know is how many teachers are given refresher courses to update them on newer skills that they can employ in the classroom.

    • @islandgal

      Unfortunately it Iit is the salacious which seems to gather current nowadays. BT and ST wouldn’t be surprise.

  13. The Barbadian society has always been seen as a labour intensive society and so the educational system from primary to tertiary was and is geared towards producing labour for the market.

    Though we were given formal education, the syllabus was never formulated for us to be creative in our thinking, and one will find that those of us who went through the system (from primary to tertiary) were the ones who regurgitated well.

    In university, you are not expected to come up with any original thought, you reproduce exactly what the lecturer releases, anything outside of that is not looked upon favorably.

    Those who think outside the box, unfortunately are not seen or acknowledge by society, and so they fall by the wayside.

    Do our doctors, lawyers, those in mainstream, do any refresher courses to keep abreast of their discipline when they finish tertiary education? I doubt it.

  14. islandgal246 wrote ,
    “I would love to hear from teachers and past students of our secondary schools on how they think that our education system can be improved.”
    David responded,”Unfortunately it Iit is the salacious which seems to gather current nowadays.”

    As a past student of Kolij, the system can be improved if children are taught in the same way we were taught when I went to Kolij in the 60s.
    A dunce with a computer can’t learn by rote or think critically.

    The most important foundation for a youngster is to be learn to read ,write, comprehend what is written, and do arithmetic without a calculator.

    That is how some children of Bajan parents are able to compete with the Asia bookworms in Toronto and go on to U of T and other top Universities.

  15. And for the record, I went to school with a bariffle of creative thinkers who have gone on to be successful in professions that require so called “thinking outside the box”.

    Regardless of what you do, Reading Riting an Rythmetic are the pillars of learning.

  16. @Hants

    How we were taught in the sixties and seventies was survival of the brightest. The ones who could not catch up were left behind and forgotten. Children learn at different speeds and a teacher with a class of 30 students will pay attention to the ones that grasped easily. I know some who went to the UK with only basic primary education and became excellent nurses. Had they stayed in Barbados they would have been the forgotten ones.

    • @islandgal

      Another thing I would like to know is how many teachers are given refresher courses to update them on newer skills that they can employ in the classroom.

      As far as we know if a teacher is Erdiston trained there is no requirement for refresher training.

  17. islandgal246 I not smart enough to argue with you and GP ain’t even here to help me but I am making the point that reading ,writing and doing arithmetic is the foundation of learning.

    Barbados has not had the resources to have classes of 15 students as is thought to be optimal.

  18. @Hants

    I agree that reading writing and arithmetic are the fundamental learning blocks. Look at what is coming out of our university. If you cannot think for yourself and transfer your skills, you may as well not go.

    I totally agree with what you have stated. The system created followers for a good reason. It allows easier control for those at the top.
    A few years ago a friend of mine had a problem at her daughter’s school ( the convent). Her daughter made the mistake of correcting the teacher’s misspelling of a word on the blackboard. The teacher instead of thanking her for her quick observation, the child was taken to the Headmistress where she was warned of her behaviour and made to apologize. The mother was called in and told what had happened. The mother insisted that the head go to the class and ask the students what had happened. They told the head that the student pointed out to the teach that a word on the blackboard was spelt incorrectly and the teacher got annoyed with the student. The head apologized to the child. In my books that teacher should have been terminated. Teaching is an exchange of information and it cannot be a one way street. Teachers do not know everything and until Barbadian educators take a different approach we will always be stuck in the same rut producing educated illiterates.

  19. @Hants,
    you might want to believe that when you went to school the syllabus was different, but that’s not true. If you didn’t leave Barbados your level of cognition would be the same as the seniors we have in the civil service who can’t come with a fresh idea but unwilling to let any filter through the system.

    Being abroad enabled you to utilize other cognitive skills to map your way through.

  20. @ Sid

    Very interesting. I was expecting you to state that you bought the company, or opened your own taking the best employees to compete with your former pay masters. I say the younger generation of blacks is moving in this direction, – working for themselves. They get the required experience in two or three of the high tech leaders and them move out on their own as Consultants.

  21. “In university, you are not expected to come up with any original thought, you reproduce exactly what the lecturer releases, anything outside of that is not looked upon favorably.”

    I do not know if you were referring to past times but currently at UWI if you do that you can expect to fail. You have to go out of your way to research topics, find examples and create innovative diagrams, essays and presentations if you want the full marks. So to say “anything outside is not looked upon favorably at present” would be wrong. Reciting just what the lecturers say in the class does not cut it. It is university level work not CSEC, even for CAPE you are expected to think outside of the box.

  22. Hi Hants
    This is GP peeping in. Have for the last two months been trying to help some others put a new medical school on its feet.I have been very busy and have had little or poor internet service.This has made it almost impossible to contribute on BU.

    I have enjoyed this thread so far. Much that has been said is very true. One thing that I am currently experiencing is the gross inability of those at the top to imagine that others have better ideas than they. in addition, it boggles the mind why folk spend so much time in long boring meetings discussing incidentals rather than ESSENTIALS

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