The Grenville Phillips Column – To Trade School With You!

Grenville Phillips II, leader of Solutions Barbados

Whenever examination result are announced in Barbados, there is the predictable call for fundamental changes to our educational system.  With approximately 60% of our secondary school students failing to achieve grades 1 or 2 CSEC passes, the system clearly need improving.  However, an analysis of the recommended changes reveals that the aim is not to reduce the failure rate, but rather, to divert those whom they consider ‘non-academic’ into trade schools, where they can learn to ‘work with their hands’.

Hands do not work by themselves.  The same brain activity required to guide a surgeon’s hands is the same that is required to guide an artisan’s.  Further, the consequences of failure for both can be disastrous.  A surgeon’s error can result in the death of his or her patient, and the artisan steel-bender’s error can result in the collapse of a multi-storey building.

With proper training, the surgeon can learn to do the steel-bender’s work and the steel-bender can learn to do the surgeon’s.  The reason why one became a surgeon and the other a steel-bender is based on the incorrect assumption that some secondary students are not academically suited, and should be sent to ‘work with their hands’.  All of our secondary school students can learn – they just need time and encouragement.
In primary school, I had difficulty understanding the school work.  My teachers did their best, but I simply could not understand most mathematical concepts – like the square root.  In response, for one year my mother taught me English, my father taught me mathematics, and I was not allowed to enter the ‘living room’ which contained the television.  With much effort, I passed the Common Entrance Examination for Combermere School.

I entered Combermere School in 1975 in lower first form.  I remember the feelings of accomplishment when I realised that I was actually understanding the work.  However, I soon recognised that I had another problem.  While the teacher’s and text book’s explanations were understandable, I had difficulty remembering the material once the teacher left the classroom, or once I closed my text book.  My brain seemed to leak knowledge like how a sieve leaks liquid, so that there was very little left to recall during tests and examinations.

After the first term, we were handed yellow report books.  Mine read: “Number of boys in Class: 29.  Position in Class: 29”, and occupying the highest possible position, I thought that I came first.  I proudly declared that to anyone who asked me, until I happened upon Peter Riley, who claimed that he came first.  I was about to challenge the accuracy of that assertion, but then realised that Peter was the brightest boy in the class, and I was not.  As God is my witness, it was only then that it began to dawn on me that in this case, the highest number was not the most favourable.

In 1976 I was promoted to upper first form, and girls entered the lower first form.  In 1977, I entered second form.  However, they abolished the upper first form and there were suddenly girls in my classroom.  I was now 13 years old, and the novel feelings associated with puberty made the girls an impossible distraction to me.

When an attractive girl sat next to me in class, and her skirt rose above her knee to expose her thighs, then the teacher taught me in vain.  The only subjects that I had decent marks in were technical drawing and industrial arts – where I worked with my hands.  Recognizing this problem, I read the textbooks at home, but the challenges of recalling information persisted well into 4th form.

Occupying the bottom third of the class for most of my secondary school life, I observed too many boys giving up prematurely.  One senior teacher revealed his observation that most boys gave up in third form.  Sometime between late 4th and mid-5th form, my brain seemed to mature, and I began to both understand and remember the work.  Had I not kept persisting, had my parents not kept encouraging me, then I would not be a structural engineer today.

The solution is to keep all of our secondary school students interested enough in the school work, until their brains have had a chance to develop to both understand and remember information.  In a Solutions Barbados administration, the secondary school curriculum will be redesigned, so that the first 3 years will be dedicated to teaching the more practical aspects of subjects, like: music-by-ear, conversational languages, applied sciences, English literature, art, technical drawing and home economics.  The final 2 years will be reserved for adding the more theoretical CXC requirements.

Grenville Phillips II is the founder of Solutions Barbados and can be reached at

148 thoughts on “The Grenville Phillips Column – To Trade School With You!

  1. Hal

    I see nothing wrong to pointing at the mans weaknesses,also Boris’ as far as building regulations and budgeting for the service is concerned,although for the life of me I cannot see what role other than optics a politician can play in such a charged atmosphere,one which he would have no aptitude fore…..he would only get in the way.

    Campus trendz fire on Tudor St. was our grenfell tower moment and we would love to know if our services could handle a 15 storey building being on fire.

  2. Vincent,
    I have a deep belief that you are more intelligent than your postings, otherwise I will not engage with you.
    Think and not follow the flawed Bajan idea of reasoning. Politicians allocate resources: money, workers, they make key decisions.
    Example, Simon Cowell now wants to raise £5m for the victims of Grenfell, LeBron James made a donation of US$2.5m to the Afro-American museum. A local teacher in Ladbroke Grove has raised over £1m for victims. To this day Sadiq has not made any donation to the fund. What does this say? It is not his money. At the very lease he should match any funds collected.
    As to pointing out the man’s weaknesses, that is not racism or anti-Muslim. It is just showing that the man’s personal ambitions seem to crowd out his humanity.
    As to Campus Trendz, Barbados has enormous regulatory problems, right across a number of social policy areas, but as our leaders would say: that is not how we do things. I will refrain from giving a long list of the failure of our administrative and political classes.

  3. Hal

    Sadiq,is the head of a govt arm,Theresa has made 6M pounds available already and she has put in place a body to deal with housing,food and clothes…..the last thing you want is duplication of effort.

    You may have last word on this.

  4. Vincent,
    Sadiq is mayor of London,, local government, separate from central government. Do you understand how UK government is organised? I am talking about fund-raising, not duplicating anything. Theresa May has not put in place anything to deal with housing, food and clothes. In fact, she has just apologised to the people.
    What organising there has been has been done by local volunteers, churches and mosques. Kensington and Chelsea council has done very little.
    I am beginning to think my optimism about you is misplaced.

  5. Dear All:

    Once again, those who prefer the status quo have done all that they can to ensure that there are no changes to the secondary school curriculum. Then they hijacked the conversation to divert it away from discussing the article.

    Those who occupied the top half positions in school seem to have no idea of the learning challenges of the bottom third. As President of a College for construction persons in the Caribbean, I use my qualifications to teach those sent to trade schools in order to provide many of them with their first academic and professional qualifications. I have taught hundreds of trades-persons across the Caribbean and have found that all of them can learn.

    How do I know this? Well, the final examination is rigorous and the pass mark for the structural section is 100%. Why? Because if you take good quality sand, stone and cement and mix it with water and place it in timber forms with steel reinforcement and forget to compact the concrete, or forget to cure it after it has set, then while it may appear strong, it will likely fail when tested by a hazard.

    We only test critical aspects, and they must know them all in order to graduate – since I will not be in the site monitoring them. The vast majority of them meet the required standard (those who do not achieve in the 90s% range). Please note that the examinations are not easy. Very few university Engineering graduates (from any university) could pass the examination without taking the course.

    The main point of the article is that all of us can learn, and none of us should be diverted into a vocation simply because of a slower mental development.

    Best regards,

  6. @Artax June 16, 2017 at 10:43 AM “construction contractor Mark Maloney sits on LIAT’s Board of Directors, representing Barbados, the majority shareholder in the airline.”

    What on earth is HE doing on LIAT’s Board?

  7. More the reason i will never travel LIAT again, last time was at least 23 years ago, but that lout on the board, no wonder things are getting worse for LIAT..

    Grenville…..unfortunately Grenfell happened the same day your article was posted.

    We been saying for years trade schools are the way to go, stop filling these kids heads with 11 plus nonsense, let the kids who are academically inclined follow their dreams….

    …. the kids who are otherwise skilled, should have their skills set identified as young as age 14, for both boys and girls and placed in the appropriate schools outfitted to meet their ambitions, education and preparation for advanced training in their chosen fields.

    It is never a slower mental development that is inaccurate, children learn at different paces.

    ….. i might digest 1600 words per minute, understand it and regurgitate it verbatim, another person might take half an hour to digest 1600 words and understand the text even better, with the same regurgitation capabilities.

    …learning should not be a rat race or an unpleasant experience for young minds.

  8. @Grenville June 17, 2017 at 6:31 PM “Once again, those who prefer the status quo have done all that they can to ensure that there are no changes to the secondary school curriculum. Then they hijacked the conversation to divert it away from discussing the article.”

    A Simple Reply: Please note that while I challenged some of what you wrote earlier, I did not hijack the conversation, in fact because of illness I was away from the discussion for more than 36 hours.

    @Grenville June 17, 2017 at 6:31 PM The main point of the article is that all of us can learn, and none of us should be diverted into a vocation simply because of a slower mental development.

    A Simple Reply: I agree with this point. I agree that everybody can learn, and that some children need more time, more attention, and perhaps different methods of teaching in order for optimum learning to occur. But I would not throw out the whole system in order to accommodate the bottom 1/3. I would however give these children more time, and provide the specially trained teachers and other resources so that the bottom 1/3 can also achieve.

    But please do not throw out the baby with the bathwater.

  9. @Well Well & Consequences Observing Blogger June 17, 2017 at 7:26 PM “Grenville…unfortunately Grenfell happened the same day your article was posted.”

    I second this.

    Your column was “hijacked” by the unfortunate and tragic Grenfell fire.

  10. @Hal Austin June 16, 2017 at 1:59 AM “Simple Simon, I am suggesting that these subjects be made free of cost for every citizen, no matter their age.”

    Good idea.

    I agree.

  11. Grenville,

    Do you understand that we live in a world of scarce resources, and that a poor island nation cannot spend nearly all of what little it has on the slowest students?

    You apparently did poorly in school and to redeem yourself, had to go abroad to soak up the lavish resources of a wealthy nation. Good for you, but if you now think we should be focusing our pennies on the dunces, you are mistaken.

    I am all for Learning by Doing but it is very expensive. Cant afford much of it in Barbados.

  12. @ Simple Simon
    What on earth is HE doing on LIAT’s Board?
    What better place to be if you wanted to buy and run your own plane?
    You certainly did not think that it was about HELPING LIAT did you…!?!!

  13. Chad et al:

    Please note that the educational system is currently designed for at-most 40% of the student population. We are advocating that it be deigned for all students, including the 40%.

    Further, the total curriculum will still be taught. We are simply recommending that the first three years contain mainly the practical aspects of subjects. This will not cost any more money or require any more teaching effort, but it will enhance learning for all students. Therefore, why reject it?

  14. What are the odds of Grenville’s article being hijacked by Grenfell’s fire. 

    Chad…ya projecting ya own slow witted self on students who need to study at their own pace.

    What’s the hurry to rat race children in the Caribbean,  the chances of them going off to other countries to benefit from the various opportunities are dwindling, getting fewer and fewer unless their parents have a lot of money to fund their education in Europe or North America, or they get athletic  scholarships with full rides….therefore, the commonsense thing to do is let them learn and be trained at their own pace in Barbados and the other islands..

    Unlike you who ran off to the US and now trump has put a halt on issuing work visas…they can develop at a pace that suits them in the islands and dont have to worry about visas and being deported while contributing to the islands’ growth..

  15. Like most of the lunatic Left, WW&C

    is a busy anti-Trump propagandist, energetically spreading misinformation.

    The Trump Administration has not stopped issuing non-immigrant visas to the United States. The number issued worldwide has decreased, but only by about 15%. Even the seven Middle Eastern countries specifically targeted by the travel ban have been getting as many as 60% of the number of visas they got under Obama.

    Stop lying about President Trump.

  16. Chad I ‘liked’ your comments to highlight the disingenuous nature boldly displayed.

    No one need lie about President Trump. He does a perfectly great job doing that himself.

    The travel ban that was so vitally important and desperately had to be enacted to get extreme vetting in place to save the US from terrorists is now about to reach the 90 day date he demanded.

    Not a damned thing has come from any of those countries. Not a damned terrorist has been linked to activity and will not in the future due to the failure of this ban.

    The president is a liar and charlatan. Not a fella can trump him in that area.

  17. Dribbler

    Excuse me, but six months is not sufficient time to reach a conclusion about the wisdom of a travel ban.

    And even if there is no attack on the United States from any Muslim country, an American president would still be within his rights to reduce the perceived risk of an attack by imposing a travel ban. No foreign Muslim has a right to travel to the US (or at least that was settled law until some crazy judges started spouting off).

  18. Chadster… wonder trumptards are seen as retards or you know if for had one that soecialized work visas have been suspended since March….even fir nurses, see for yourself.

    US suspension of fast track for H-1B visas leaves foreign workers in limbo
    The visas, which allow skilled workers to come to the US temporarily, are in especially high demand in Silicon Valley and the medical sector

    Olivia Solon in San Francisco  
    Monday 6 March 2017 23.34 GMT Last modified on Thursday 18 May 2017 19.02 BST

    The US has temporarily suspended the fast-track processing of H-1B visas, leaving many foreign workers in limbo.

    H-1B visas allow skilled workers to come to the US temporarily.They are in high demand, particularly in Silicon Valley and the medical sector, and are allocated by lottery. It can take more than six months for an application to be reviewed. Premium processing allows applicants to pay an extra fee ($1,225) to ensure a response within 15 days.

    The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on Friday that it was putting that facility on hold from 3 April 2017, justifying the move as a means to clear a backlog in processing of H-1B visas. However, some fear the suspension – which USCIS said could last up to six months – is a first step towards the Trump administration clamping down on this type of immigration.

    “Is this something related to the current administration? We don’t know,” said Avinash Conda, a senior manager Shutterfly based in Redwood City, California. “But the entire mood seems to be slowly moving towards an anti-immigration tone whether it’s the Muslim ban or this.”

    If ya had fit the critera for being anything other than a halfwit….ya would know about soecialist visas, which ya obviously dont,.ya would not support a president about to be impeached, so ya credibility is

    Again….there is no reason to rat race the education of young 11 year olds.

  19. Chadster… wonder trumptards are seen as retards or you would know if ya had one that specialized work visas have been suspended since March….even for nurses, see for yourself.

  20. Simple Simon June 17, 2017 at 6:37 PM #

    “What on earth is HE doing on LIAT’s Board?”

    @ Simple Simon

    I don’t know…………. Perhaps he’s “moving the earth to please.”


  21. WW&C

    Pity you. You did not win any prizes for reading comprehension in school

    The H-1B program is still operating. What was suspended is a FAST TRACK process that allowed some H-1B applicants to reduce the normal waiting time for their visas by paying an extra fee.

    The REGULAR TRACK is unaffected by this change.

    Now apologize to me and I will let you eat some humble pie.

  22. No I wont dummy.

    It has been documented those visas are on hold and knowing trumptard, it will be longer than the stipulated 6 months.

    You owe the blog an apology for trying to recruit us into being trumptards.

  23. You guys are lucky..
    The chadster is just a name here
    What if you had him as a relative and was talking to him last night

  24. @chad99999 at 2:03 AM …You (sir/madam) are a mere provocateur with no logical rhyme or reason…but heh, we all love blogging our opinions so why hell not speak in illogical circles.

    Bro chad45 please be aware that it is Donald Trump and his team who ESTABLISHED the 90 day review period.

    Your remark that “Excuse me, but six months is not sufficient time to reach a conclusion about the wisdom of a travel ban” is what I suppose one would term as inculpatory self-incriminating evidence.

    You must never say you are guilty and then plead a case of innocence. LOL. Illogical Mr provocateur.

    And by the way, the previous administration had a 18 month vetting process for any refugees from those countries and a very deliberative and comprehensive visa issuance process for all others coming from there as well.

    Your defense of a political folly which also happened to be a constitutionally banned religious test shows that you will carry water for your favorite pol regardless of reason and commonsense.

    The president is NOT ‘within his rights’ to CONCOCT a perceived risk of an attack. Reasonable judges have determined his assertions are based on political rhetoric and not practical concerns to the safety of the US.

    You cannot ban someone simply because they are Muslim or Christian or Jewish. That is the ‘settled law’ that those ‘crazy judges’ have upheld.

  25. TheGazer June 18, 2017 at 8:43 AM #

    “What if you had him as a relative and was talking to him last night?”

    @ The Gazer

    Newspaper headlines:

    “Man assisting police into an investigation of a serious attack on relative.”

    According to sources, the man allegedly attack his relative, cutting off his hands and cutting out his tongue, saying it will prevent him from writing and talking so much shiite ever again.

  26. @ de pedantic Dribbler June 18, 2017 at 9:21 AM

    “The president is NOT ‘within his rights’ to CONCOCT a perceived risk of an attack. Reasonable judges have determined his assertions are based on political rhetoric and not practical concerns to the safety of the US.”

    Just a load of hypocrisy in both corners!

    How should ‘fair-minded’ people view the whole Muslim-banning fiasco after declaring Qatar a breeding ground for terrorists and then turn around and seal a US$ 12 billion arms deal with the same terrorism and jihadists financiers to blow up innocent Westerners?

  27. President Trump has sought to ban Muslims from countries where (a) the dastardly character of the government or (b) the breakdown of the government, makes it impossible for the US to effectively vet visa applicants.

    The President’s executive orders are constitutional and the US Supreme Court is likely to say so eventually.

    Most immigration policy decisions “discriminate” in favour or against some class or group relative to other classes or groups, and in Anglo-Saxon countries like the UK, Canada, and the US, the executive authority (the Cabinet or the Presidency) holds the residual powers once enjoyed by the monarch, and has always been accorded broad authority to conduct foreign policy, including immigration policy, that arises from national security concerns.

    Trump is within his rights.

  28. @ chad99999 June 18, 2017 at 10:53 AM

    Is he also within his “rights” to sell arms to the same ‘banned’ Muslim terrorists and jihadists to kill innocent Westerners?

  29. Dont mind Chadster trumptard….the only rights trump have are to an attorney for obstruction of justice charges and impeachment proceedings, he spent 150 days with cockup after cockup….giving up any other rights.

    “MAX BOOT: Donald Trump is proving too stupid to be president”

  30. MNK

    Trump is selling fighter aircraft to Qatar and Saudi.
    Neither country is on his list of of banned states.

    So what is your point?

  31. Trump called Qatar a state sponsor of terrorism then he signed off on a 12 billion arms deal to the same country.

  32. “If we cut the gas, it does great harm to the UAE and the people of the UAE, who are considered like brothers … we decided not to cut the gas now.”
    Qatar will not shut gas pipeline to UAE: QP CEO
    Saad al-Kaabi says despite the blockade against Qatar, Doha will not shut its gas pipeline to its ‘brothers’.

  33. Looks like Chadster trumptard is not staying up with the news these, are you sure you were not in some immigration deportation facility in the US….and only got released 4 days ago, into another country.

    Ya are missing factual information. ..explain..

  34. Looks like Chadster trumptard is not staying up with the news these days….smells fishy.

  35. WW&C

    You have the uncanny ability of hijacking all the topics and distracting contributors into focusing on what you want to discuss.

    In this case, you have succeeded in “systematically” changing the focus from “discussing” Solutions Barbados’ policy on education to the fire in England and Donald Trump.

  36. Artax, despite WW&C’s multifaceted BU blog talents/appearances it is impossible for her to hijack such a diverse group of opinion makers all by ‘her lonesome self’ .

    Grenville’s piece ebbed and flowed its way – as all blogs do – to the path chosen by a majority of bloggers who continued to post here. No one hijacked anything.

    The author or you or anyone else can get on to the blog and redirect its flow at any time!

    For you to give so much authority and power to WW&C will just swell her head more… so ease up with the grand praise, like…”the uncanny ability of hijacking all the topics”.

    For the record, she absolutely does not have any such uncanny ability. LOLL….But she does talk a lot, however!

    So redirect…. what is it again that you or Grenville want to add on Bajan education …or has the topic flowed into its final pool for now.

  37. Artax…if you check the comments…it was not me, I came into the discussion late. I swear, I even tried to get it back on track and everyone ignored me, so what was I to do.

    Maybe you will have better luck.

    Why are you not on the Grenfell blog.

    Even Pedant is backing me up on that one, which should tell you a lotl

  38. Artax

    Not touching that…….let it go past the off stump……You want me get cuss again…..

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