Submitted by William Skinner
John Cumberbatch, the late president of the Barbados Union of Teachers, often described the Common Examination as elitist. He was convinced that once it remained the gold standard of excellence, the system would eventually be the main cause for several societal problems. It was a position he took before the mid-seventies, when he was leader of the BUT. Forty years later, his predictions have come to pass and we are still refusing to accept that he and others who supported this view were correct.
What is most unfortunate is that many of those teachers who were exposed to John’s views, embraced them but we now find them four decades later, in powerful positions, denouncing his positions and shamelessly defending the status quo. These former “Comrades” have sold their souls on the altar of political expediency and one often wonders, if they have collectively agreed to hold fast to the mantra: “if you can’t beat them join them”. They are to be found in both government and opposition. The classical case of pigs now walking on their hind legs and behaving like the masters, in Animal Farm.
Those voices crying in the wilderness for a radical reform of the education system, are to be commended but once parents believe that their children, can enter Harrison or Queens College, the task to change the system becomes more difficult. If many of those parents knew that some children enter the examination room, barely having the ability to recognize their names, they would perhaps be more supportive.
Any country that deliberately throws hundreds of its children in a socio-economic river while gleefully celebrating the achievements of a few, is certainly guilty of a form of societal genocide. The current rise in crime and the escalating disregard for life or limb by some of our youth, are certain signs of the full growth of seeds that were planted at least four decades ago. Our social scientists, have bluntly refused to utilize their knowledge to show or explain how the education system, is fertile breeding ground, for much of the deviancy that is now permeating the society.
Some moderators who chased callers off their programs, when they tried to explain that the education system was a great contributor, to many of our problems, are heard these days crying crocodile tears because they are facing the frightening reality, that if we refuse to rescue our youth from the path of drugs and crime, they would be no longer safe in their comfortable heights and terraces. It means that their desire to now embrace what they formally dismissed as “fringe elements”, is perhaps guided by ulterior motives.
Any form of elitism breeds disaffection and is immediately followed by hopelessness. We cannot restructure the economy without education reform. It is impossible to produce a 2017 model car on a 1950 production line. Our people remain our most precious resource, and that resource must be carefully nurtured for national development. It is not too late but time is running out.