Albert Einstein once said that if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it would spend its entire life thinking it is stupid. Were we stupid not to see that for decades, our education system was underperforming? We did not demand radical changes to the system in that time.
Our education system has been in the doldrums because our administrators seemed incapable of analysing the situation. They saw the results and failed to act when it became clear that the children were not allowed to become rounded persons. The focus was on the books to the extent that children were attending classes for as many as twelve hours.
The extent of the neglect has led to poor infrastructure, poor salaries, lack of qualified teachers and an outdated and backward curriculum. Change takes time, but it would take a herculean effort to implement some of the key recommendations made by the Commission of Inquiry.
In determining what should be taught in our schools to help students succeed, there must be a clear understanding of the nature and purpose of education. Educators should work backwards from the vision of what kind of society and order we desire and then develop a curriculum as part of the roadmap to take us there.
In order to understand the relevance of the curriculum to national development, it is necessary to recognize that the current model, premised on the concept of competition rather than collaboration, has failed our students and us as a society. It is based on an underlying principle that some must fail to validate the superiority of others.
Indeed, our education system has been used as a tool to marginalize some for the benefit of others. There is high stakes at play as the current educational model continues to exact a toll on our youths and the nation as a whole.
Like in the colonial era, this model continues to allow education to be a formula of segregation and division. While the formula may be ideally suited to the elite and the capitalist class, unfortunately the fallout includes the exclusion of large segments of society. Those who fail to graduate from our schools would become hopeless. Many would unleash their anger through violence, criminality and social unrest, because for them, this is the only avenue through which societal revenge can be exacted.
We have inherited an education system that forces students to fit the model rather than enabling the model to adjust to the needs of students. Such a model may have worked for the colonial society but it cannot conceivably claim to serve the needs of our society.
If the objective of education is the development of our students, then it must be redefined within the concept of the uniqueness of learners.For education to truly be a social equalizer in Guyana, there must be greater efforts by the administration to dismantle the current elitist model, which is characterized by success for a minority, to one that recognizes the worth of all learners, regardless of their cognitive ability, status or socio-economic background.
Our educational model is viewed by many as irrelevant and meaningless to large sectors of the society. It is a dysfunctional arrangement that has imperiled the ability of students to learn. The fact that high school drop-outs rates are increasing and that a large number of students are not graduating from our educational institutions on an annual basis should be a sufficient catalyst for the total overhaul of the existing system.
The levels of crime and criminality evident throughout the nation are a direct result of an education system that has failed thousands of students. This is the current reality.
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