Today, the nation’s children return to school. But from reports in the press, it appears that a significant number will have to stay out for another week or two.
While most of these children would probably not mind an extension of their vacation, apart from the One Mile Primary School in Wismar, there is no excuse for this curtailment of the “Christmas Term”. Will the Ministry of Education (MoE) make provisions to make up for the time lost in teaching the curricula?
Traditionally, September has been designated “Education Month” by the MoE and by today a series of activities, under a named theme, would have been announced. We hope that the delay has been occasioned by a decision of the Minister to have her department tackle the abysmal results of the last CSEC exams ‘frontally”. They might have to recalibrate their interventions.
While not as bad as Guyana’s, the results in the region as a whole were shocking enough to precipitate calls for reform in most territories. CXC has also promised to collaborate with the various governments on remedial diagnostics of their pedagogical principles.
One suggestion that they have already made is that we must move on from the ‘chalk and talk’ methodology that has been in place since the abolition of slavery. The Information Technology tools are now ubiquitous in our society and the Ministry has to use them more effectively for imparting the curricula to its charges.
It is rather ironic that over the past decade there have been numerous outside interventions to introduce computers, for instance, into our school system, starting from the primary level. But in almost all instances, the donated equipment were utilized more in the breach than not.
The government itself recognised the need for schools to be plugged into the ICT world and brought in a new US$30 fibre-optic cable from Brazil, which, among other functions such as e-government, would have accomplished this goal. Since the last elections, however, there has been a studied silence on the status of the fibre-optic cable and the benefits the country should have received.
As we begin this “Education Month”, we hope that the Ministry has taken note of the caution sounded by the Registrar and CEO of CXC on the Pilot School program that was introduced last December to improve our flagging results in CSEC.
This program was basically an intensification of the ‘teach to the test’ methodology that comes straight of the drilling and rote learning route we were handed almost two hundred years ago. Students, given past exam papers, books and a calculator for Mathematics and English by the Ministry were drilled an extra two hours daily by teachers.
The question is whether these students actually came away from these drills with any substantive knowledge of the subjects that would make them move on to perform effectively at the tertiary level or in a working environment. We doubt it. We have to be careful of ‘quick fixes”. There is great wisdom in the folk saying, “rain can’t full wha dew na full”. Any remedial intervention must be conceptualised and executed in a holistic manner.
We have to use the new technology from the nursery level to present that materials in our curricula in a manner that would make the children want to learn.
The electronic media is ideally suited for bringing to life abstract subjects such as mathematics. A couple of years ago there was a buzz about a low-cost science kit sponsored by UNESCO that was ideal for bringing home the concepts of the basic sciences. This initiative seems to have died on the vine.
But behind it all, teachers will have to be trained in the new methodology and the school administration will have to get behind the program.
The assessment tests that are now being given from Grade 2 must be modified to incorporate the new technology both in the substantive and procedural aspects.
Most importantly, the results of the assessments must be utilised for the purpose intended: to have the teacher intervene more directly in remedial action.