The past week was a most interesting week, with teachers doing something they had not done in living memory. They took strike action in their numbers, some chanting slogans that were thought to be beneath the dignity of teachers.
But then again, teachers are people in the society; they are products of the society in the same way policemen are products of the society. The society has its share of corrupt people, so it should not be surprising that there will be corrupt policemen. Most of them come from the lower echelons of the society.
This is something that makes the Guyana education system not as good as those in many other countries. Just this past week I happened to be reading about education systems in the world. One writer opted to compare the best education system in the world—Switzerland—with the United States, which is rated eighteenth.
The writer found that the teachers in Switzerland come from the top thirty per cent of the academic system. This alone suggests that the brightest people teach the young and up and coming students. Small wonder that Switzerland is said to have the best education system in the world. She found that teachers in the United States come from the bottom thirty per cent.
But there are other researches that say otherwise. A more recent one places Britain at the top of the totem pole followed by the United States, Canada, Germany and France.
Germany has a programme of streaming, to the extent that these students are some of the youngest in the world to be placed on designated academic paths.
In the United States, students progress through 13 grades, from kindergarten through high school, and about 70 percent of graduating students continue on to higher education, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The U.S. is home to eight of the top 10 Best Global Universities.
The United Kingdom, which tops the education system in this recent study, has a mandatory school system for children five to sixteen. Guyana’s is patterned after the United Kingdom.
A study conducted in 2015-2016 suggests that the Asian countries are the world leaders when it comes to producing the top students.
“Finland and South Korea, not surprisingly, top the list of 40 developed countries with the best education systems. Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore follow. The rankings are calculated based on various measures, including international test scores, graduation rates between 2006 and 2010, and the prevalence of higher education seekers.”
“While funding is an important factor in strong education systems, cultures supportive of learning is even more critical — as evidenced by the highly ranked Asian countries, where education is highly valued and parents have grand expectation.”
“In both Korea and Finland though, education is held in high regards and teachers are treated with great respect (equal to how we revere doctors or lawyers in the west).”
So we have varying findings and conclusions, but nowhere is Guyana or any Caribbean country for that matter, mentioned.
It is becoming clear that most of our parents do not care how the children perform, provided they get out of the house and go to school each day. Parents in the past, although they were barely literate, ensured that children did their homework, were respectful to teachers and above all, got an education to take them out of poverty. That approach worked.
At the same time teachers worked. They were never the best paid people. Even in the rich United States teachers are not among the top earners in the society, not even close, although they are paid a salary that can afford them to live comfortably.
In Guyana teachers are also poorly paid, but better than their predecessors who produced some of the best students in the world. The older people were dedicated to the profession. It is that dedication that is lacking today, with the result that in increasing numbers people are leaving school barely able to read and write.
I do not blame the teachers to ask for more money, but it was long proven that more money does not necessarily mean greater productivity. I can see the teachers getting more money, but I do not see them doing anything other than what they are doing today.
This may have to do with supervision. School heads seem less inclined to discipline errant teachers. I have heard some of them say that they have a few more years to their pension and they do not intend to do anything to jeopardise that pension.
However, after they retire and enter the private schools, one sees an entirely different attitude, because the level of supervision is such that they must work or hit the streets.
It is not by accident that the very teachers perform better during their private lesson classes. They know that their level of productivity is measured by the parents who pay.
I blame the system for what occurs today. There was a time when inspectors visited the schools. They examined the teachers’ notes and even sat in classes to see the method of teaching. There are hardly any inspectors these days.
There is nobody to see the empty classes, because the teachers have headed to the University of Guyana when they should be in school.
It was good to protest for more pay, but for everything there is a concomitant responsibility. Perhaps come next year when there are the generalized examinations, one would see vastly improved results.
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