tt.humanist :: forum :: commentary :: education
Enlightened EducationPublished in Trinidad Guardian • Reported in Trinidad Express
21 May 2005 • 832 words
Almost everyone would agree that our education system is failing badly. But, even if most concerned persons agree on what the problems are, they often disagree on the solutions. And, even if they agree on the solutions, they may disagree on the priority which should be given to various measures.
The TT Humanist Association does not pretend to have all the answers. Our contribution to the pedagogical debate is intended to clarify the issue since, as a group with a humanist perspective, we bring to the table no ideology but a reliance on evidence, no dogma save a belief in rational thought, and no bias except a commitment to compassion.
Let us begin with what is NOT our country's problem in respect to improving education: money and technical knowledge. However, in terms of expenditure, Trinidad and Tobago spends about four percent of its GDP on education, when the average rate in developed nations is seven percent. In terms of technical measures, our group has reviewed the Education Ministry's policy plans, and found most of its recommendations quite useful. Of these measures, we think priority should be given to continuous professional development for staff, developing a pool of substitute teachers, setting up student councils, and introducing peer counselling and mentoring. We note that only the first two measures listed here will require significant expenditure.
But good ideas are useless unless translated into action and, as in so many other areas of national life, implementation and attitude are our stumbling blocks. It is here that the education system must become the agent of its own change. Indeed, such a change, if effectively implemented, must within one generation lead to significant transformation of the entire society. So the challenge, in the first instance, is not pedagogical but political. It is up to the Education Ministry to implement those key changes which can lead to a transformation in attitude among both educators and their charges.
The TT Humanist Association proposes some relatively modest reforms which, we hope, will have a large impact on students in terms of the way they see the world and, therefore, how they conduct themselves when they become adults. These are our 10 core recommendations.
We are aware that none of these measures directly addresses the issue of indiscipline. This is because we think that, if such reforms are introduced, students will find school an interesting and comfortable place. This of itself will not solve all discipline problems, but it may well prevent fires.