By Leonard Gildarie
Adam Harris, in his Sunday columns in the Kaieteur News, has an uncanny eye for using the everyday things one take for granted and bringing them closer to home. Recently, he too expressed the opinion that more and more people seem to be reading less.
And I will agree. I remember the many times I would get into trouble for reading when I was supposed to be studying.
One time at my old school, Queen’s College, one of our English teachers, Patricia McPherson, seized a novel from me which I was caught reading in class. It was one of the new Hardy Boys book.
In those days, Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books were the love of many teenagers. Sad to say, I never got it back although I begged. My fellow student whom I had borrowed it from was not too happy. My parents were not happy either. They felt that I was wasting time reading too much instead of studying.
I was and still am a voracious reader. Working at Kaieteur News does not allow too much time for me to read outside of the newspapers but my home is filled with several bestsellers, including Robert Ludlum’s and Dan Browns. I have read The Da Vinci Code about six times.
The point is I don’t see many young people reading and it hurts me. It is one of the greatest joys of life, I think. It expands your mind. It puts you in a different world.
Many will argue that maybe this is one of the major reasons why we have so many young people unaware of what is going on in the world.
The National Library would admit that things have changed considerably over recent years since the internet came into being. Almost everything can be found on the internet.
I remember hitting the National Library every Saturday morning while at QC; the hush of the rooms and an occasional cough; the lines to photocopy pages of books. Occasionally when the photocopier would go down, we were forced to write by hand. The library now has computers hooked up to the internet. In order to meet change, one must change, it is said.
It would be satisfying when the assignment would be handed in to the teacher and a good grade was returned. It was hard work.
One time our music teacher tasked us to submit the different music instruments and pictures. I went to the National Library for a few weeks and got pictures, brief explanations of the instruments and did a beautiful presentation. I waited anxiously for the grade and was disappointed when I got 34 out of a maximum of 50 marks.
A number of students got more although they did not give a description of the instruments. I learnt that the music teacher penalised us for not following instruction of just submitting the pictures and names of the musical instruments. It was a valuable lesson. It has become much, much easier for students nowadays. Anything can be found on the internet and with many persons owning computers, homework is a just a click away to the printer.
But the widespread use of the internet to do homework has brought about some degree of “laziness” on part of many students.
My family manages an internet café and they have complained of problems with students. Many students would go to the internet café and request homework. The café has refused to compile the assignment since the student would not have learnt anything.
Rather, all the café is willing to do is to pull up the research from the internet and print it and then insist that the student completes it. Needless to say, other cafes are more than willing to do the entire assignment, for a fee of course. Recently, one parent came to the café for some research materials and after collecting same, returned later with a completed assignment from another café and said that that is the way internet cafés should operate. The problem is that the student benefits nothing from this as no hard work was done to complete it.
After all, that is the whole point of assignments from schools and other educational facilities. The students must learn some degree of independence and knowledge from the assignment.
Recently also, several private schools across Guyana were ordered to stop doing School Based Assessment (SBA) as the regional examinations body tightens up on its monitoring process.
While it is not being said, it is not uncommon knowledge that some of these schools were going all the way to ensure the students do well in these assignments. This helps to build up the credibility of the schools since SBAs account for almost 40 per cent of a CSEC exam.
One senior education official said that some teachers would even demand money to “assist” with the SBAs. Students from the targeted private schools will now have to write a Paper 3, an additional test, to make up grades.
The government had introduced a literacy programme. What kind of impact this would have made on Guyana in terms of the reading problem is unclear.
But I do believe that something needs to be done to encourage more reading. Recently, a businessman expressed disappointment of not getting workers to “use their initiative”. While schools have focused on the academic side, the fact remains that many students find themselves totally unprepared for the working environment.
Maybe the time has come for us to look at this important aspect of the educational process and implement some programmes counter same.
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