Taking credit for the wrong reasons
The lengths to which people go to ensure that their children acquire an education indicate how they feel about the school system. Extra lessons seem to occupy pride of place in the minds of most parents to the extent that they are prepared to pay at all cost.
Another indicator of parents’ drive for their children is reflected in the burgeoning number of private schools. It seems that with each passing day another private school emerges and there seems to be no end to students.
The private lessons, though, have been the fore-runner of these private schools. At some point in time the public schools began to be viewed as holding pens for children until it was time for the private lessons to begin. Perhaps, this was because the same teachers who were supposed to teach the children during regular school hours, opted to continue to teach them long after the doors to the schools were closed.
The Ministry of Education at one time concluded that the teachers were withholding their teaching efforts and only unleashing them after regular school. Some of them even used the same classrooms. The Ministry then issued an edict that no private lessons for pay could be conducted in the school.
Especially in the city, the number of children seeking private lessons is almost equal to the number attending public school. It is now an established fact that extra lessons are a part of the education system. So we see children leaving their home even before sunrise for special classes, then go to school then continue for more special classes at the end of the school day.
Social scientists have long decided that young children have a certain attention span. They found that beyond a certain length of time no learning takes place. The conclusion is that many parents may be wasting their time having their children exposed to academic learning situations beyond a certain number of hours. But many do not know this. The result is that they keep throwing money in the belief that their children are being better prepared for academic life.
Be that as it may, the situation is also an indictment on the education system. Every new private school is an indictment on the education system. Each private school suggests that it can offer better than what is being offered by the public schools.
In years gone back, children attending Queen’s College, Bishops High School and St Joseph High School could not be caught attending private lessons. Any breach of that principle was an indictment against the school. The children were faced with possible suspension.
Those schools were confident that their curriculum was enough to see the child achieve success at any external examination. That convention has gone through the window. Today children from those schools can be seen in school uniform attending private lessons. And they are doing so with impunity. It tells the story that the schools, once the top performers in the country, may not be what they are thought of to be.
It must be that the Education system is sick and while there are measures to correct the present situation, whatever ails the system still exists. Up to the recent external examinations, the top performers all attended private lessons, some travelling miles to access a teacher.
The nation, indeed, has every reason to feel proud when it records success, the kind of which it saw this year when it produced the top regional performer at the Caribbean Secondary Education Council examinations.
Minister Shaik Baksh had every reason to boast. He however mistakenly trumped that whatever successes are recorded come through his education system. Many of us have seen these private tutors taking credit for the success of the students. Some place advertisements in the newspapers using photographs of the students wearing the uniforms of the public schools they attend.
The truth is that we have bright students; the problem is that the public school system is not being provided with the quality of teachers it needs. Rehiring retired teachers may help but the government has not been swift to move in this area. The result is that the skills are available but are not being utilized.