Submitted by Observing
Barbadians were treated to a 3 hour show last week launching proposals for education transformation aimed at “revolutionsing” the way we school our children.
From the outset let me state 3 undeniable facts.
- Change is needed.
- Anyone with enough balls to try something should be commended.
- Most of the ideas are good ones albeit a tad dated.
Now here are three other facts.
- The Common Entrance is not to blame for where we are. It’s a nice red herring, but that’s all.
- We have been here before. Ironically, with some of the same people.
- We are not addressing the core issues in education/society which impact and effect the majority of our young people.
- Without going into too many specifics a few points to take note of based on a reading of the proposals:
1. Of the 25 proposals for Primary School, 20 of them have already been proposed or tried during the period 1995 – 2005. In other words, nothing new, just a rehash of necessary but improperly executed policies and ideas.
2. Of the 9 proposals for Secondary School, 6 of them have already been proposed or tried during the period 1995-2015. In other words, nothing new, just a rehash of necessary but improperly executed policies and ideas.
3. Regarding the “new” curriculum, a trip through the time tunnel to 1999 will show that these are almost word for word what was established under Curriculum 2000.
4. Regarding special needs and inclusion, this was supposed to be national policy since 1995. Why more hasn’t been done is an open question.
Now regarding the new proposals, ambition is aspirational, reality is rooting. Save this post and in 2 years time remember I said that the proposed “Middle Schools” by another name cannot and will not lead to the proposed objectives. Actually, they will present more confusion and dislocation. A few simple layman unanswered questions are
1. How will the transition be done?
2. What assessment will be used to move to Senior Schools?
3. How will we move from the old system to the new one?
4. How will staff be reorganized?
5. How will we standardize what has never been before?
6. Why are the current “top” schools still going to be the ones with an “academic” focus?
7. What consideration has been given to the peculiarities of this age grouping?
Lest we are uncertain, this is the same group that botched the “transfer” of principals and has yet to admit anything about an IADB survey. Additionally, 28 years, 4 Prime Ministers and 7 Ministers of Education later, much of what was already proposed still has to see the light of day. They simply could not get it done (or chose not to). A simple question is, do we honestly have faith in the powers that be to see and push this through?
Lastly what else is needed? The presented proposals and ideas are all needed, but, they miss some of the most important components necessary for “real” transformation. These include
1. Putting round pegs for round holes. The wrong persons in the right place will always give the wrong result.
2. Decentralising administrative processes. Once upon a time Principals and teachers had autonomy and power. Alas for the good old days
3. Revision of the laws governing education. A decades old legislation cannot govern a modern system.
4. Depoliticisation of the education system. I should say depoliticisation of the entire public service!
5. Adequate, appropriate and actual financing of the sector. Money talks, bullshit walks. All the ideas in the world are for naught if not properly resourced,
6. A greater focus on the psycho-social and developmental issues of students from day one More guidance counselors and social workers are urgently required. Academic success can never be achieved in an environment of social and emotional confusion.
7. A shift in the balance of finances to early childhood education as well as at risk schools. An early foundation avoids later problems. Also, let’s be honest, some schools need more resources than others.
8. An effective use of technology for education management rather than the piecemeal superficial fluff that happens now. This will be a post for another time but suffice to say, on a scale of 1 to 10, how schools use technology is barely scraping a 4 despite Covid and Edutech.
Kudos and commendations: The transformation push is a much needed effort BUT needs to be properly discussed, debated and constructively critiqued lest we repeat the same mistakes of two decades ago. This should happen outside of the fireworks and fancy productions. Hats of to the government for starting the discussion.
Sensibility must guide the day. Though politics and talking points are best for “the powers that be,” those of us on the ground and our children/grandchildren are the ones who will feel it most. Reform has the potential to impact multiple generations.
Reality: The society and generations of 2000-2010 are not the ones we have now. Ideas from a time past have their place but, will only have minimal impact if the core areas which need addressing based on present realities are not addressed.
Implementation deficit: Barbados is an expert in good ideas and bad or zero implementation. Edutech is a classic example. Good ideas plus bad implementation leads to eventual failure.
I pray we learn from the lessons of the past and place our children first above all else. If we do, we will be ok. If we don’t as it seems we aren’t, the inevitable is just around the corner.