RESCHEDULE SCHOOL SPORTS
The small things can mean a lot when it comes to education. As such, the Ministry of Education needs to devote less time to the larger issues of curricula reform, teaching training and infrastructure development, and use some of that time to ensure that students spend more time in the classroom and that time is better utilised.
One of the bright pieces of news this week is the decision of the Ministry of Education to re-examine the timing of school sports. The holding of these school sports takes up valuable time during the school term, because first there has to be House sports, then from these House Sports the better athletes are selected to compete in the schools’ athletic competition. This takes at least three weeks.
When this is finished there is time taken off for the students to attend and participate in the inter-school championships which begins with the division championships, going all the way to the National Schools’ Championships which are hosted by the Guyana Teachers’ Union.
When all of that is completed, half the term would have been completed, and the children have to then begin preparing for examinations. These examinations usually go to the last week of school and, therefore, school sports does deny the children adequate time for their studies.
But the problem with extracurricular activities does not end there. No sooner are the students settling in for the first term, the extracurricular activities take over with preparations for Mashramani. Another three weeks are lost here again. When all of these things are added up it means that our school kids can end up being robbed of a whole term’s work simply because of the extracurricular activities in which they are required to participate.
The Ministry of Education must therefore be commended for considering the timing of school sports. It is not healthy for school sports to be held in the first term when children are now settling in either a new school or a new grade class. Too much time is taken away for school sports and divisional and national schools’ championships, which we know have been plagued by controversies.
Students have been known to have been relieved of their cellular phones and there are grown men who turn up at these school sports with the sole intention of interfering with schoolgirls. The music that is often played at these school sports leaves much to be desired and some of the gyrations for other extracurricular activities are downright disgraceful.
The Ministry of Education should therefore consider holding school sports during the Easter vacation and the inter-school championships during the August vacation. It should also ask that the other events for Mashramani be held on weekends, so as not to take away from the time spent in the classroom.
Relieving more time for children to spend in the classroom does not, however, mean that the teachers are going to put in more school work. This is where what is needed are school administrators as distinct from head teachers. The head teachers should be responsible for ensuring that teachers complete the work that is supposed to be completed. The administrators should be responsible for the non-academic administration of the school. This simple change will ensure that head teachers pay more attention to what teachers are doing, thereby making sure that the students are not given “a six for a nine”.
Our children also spend two whole months at home during the August holiday. This is too long and should be reduced by two weeks. This will allow for two additional weeks for studies. Also, the Christmas vacation and Easter vacation can be better utilized for extracurricular activities, thereby ensuring that during the actual term there are limited interruptions.
Parents must support these changes, because the Ministry alone will not be able to push through these changes in an educational system that is still strongly resistant to change.
These small changes will make a great difference and do far more than some of the big plans that the Ministry has had over the years but has never really fully delivered.