Trinidad and Tobago Humanist Association

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CAPE corruption reflects wider society

Published in Guardian and Express
13 May 2008 • 367 words

Of the several reasons why students would cheat in an exam, a fundamental one is that, in our society, education is seen as a means to an end rather than an end in itself. In other words, the only point of studying hard is to make money, rather than to gain knowledge. Ironically, psychological tests have shown that people who pursue an activity for its own sake, whether in academia or athletics, perform better than those who do so to achieve some narrow goal.

While it is true that education policy must be shaped by a country’s practical needs, this country’s Education Ministry has been complicit in stifling children’s natural curiosity, which needs to be harnessed in order for any education system to be successful. Apart from over-emphasising the utilitarian view of learning, the Ministry has readily subsumed educational goals to ideology - which, in our culture, means religion. That is why the Ministry continues to support a disproven programme such as abstinence-only clubs, and to promote “morals and values” classes in which children are given information that is contrary to the facts they are supposed to be taught in Biology, History, and Physics.

The wider society also supports the perspective of education as something that can be bought. In  past weeks, the newspapers have carried ads and articles on Christian pastors who have been awarded higher degrees. In not one case were such degrees obtained from an accredited university. Is there any real difference between a student paying $5000 for an exam paper and an individual paying a fee so they can use the fraudulent title of “Dr Pastor”? Nor are such practices confined to the born-again sect. One Roman Catholic priest who writes a newspaper column sometimes “cheats” by taking entire passages from foreign commentators and passing it off as his own.

In the final analysis, corruption in CAPE exams reflects only the wider corruption that permeates all levels of the society. A good education system, underpinned by a philosophy that seeks to train individuals to be knowledgeable, sceptical, and ethical, can transform the society in one generation. Unfortunately, our Education Ministry seems to be contributing to the problem rather than being part of the solution.

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