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Enlightened Education

A Humanist input in areas where that is lacking

Go BackCollective • Contribution by Denis Solomon

Education is a VERY difficult subject, on which no one can honestly make confident statements without a lifetime of study, and even then opinions differ widely.  We must avoid at all costs seeming to pontificate, or re-inventing the wheel, or recommending what the Ministry of Education is already doing, or claiming to do. Being humanists doesn’t make us experts in education.

What I suggest is that instead of trying to produce a definitive document on education, we should take the same approach as the authors of the draft gender policy and action plan – i.e. raise questions that as humanists we think must be taken into consideration in the development of education policy.  In other words, make a purely humanist input in areas where that is lacking.  Examples:

  • In curriculum, teaching materials and pedagogical practice, emphasis on inquiry, empiricism and rational scepticism, in all subjects from mathematics to civics.

  • Teaching of philosophy (from primary school onward?) and inclusion of an examination in philosophy (after the French model) at the school-leaving level?.

  • Laicisation of the state school system (abolition of religious instruction perhaps in favour of the objective study of religion).  Study of systems where State schools are superior (France, Italy) in comparison with those where private or religious schools are superior (Britain, despite all governmental efforts to the contrary) in an attempt to find out the reasons..

  • Question of elite schools and tertiary institutions (intellectually, not socially elite) with stiffer entry requirements and more challenging teaching (French Grandes Ecoles, MIT, etc.)  I know this is controversial..

  • All the above in the context of manpower needs, economic development objectives, migration, etc..

  • Question of (perhaps partial) decentralisation of education (primary schools run by local authorities to bring education closer to local needs?)  This has already arisen in the context of textbook standardization..

  • Teacher training and careers in education (compulsory updating and higher pedagogical qualifications for higher posts, such as principals?)  Improvement in status of teachers..

  • At the Ministry level, continual research into the quality of intelligence (cf Venezuelan Ministry for the Development of Human Intelligence, Howard Gardner etc.).

  • Much closer collaboration with UWI in education research.  The State education authorities must replace the churches as the fountainhead of educational theory and planning..

  • Education and health – how school feeding, physical education and sports tie in with a reformed health care system based on preventive medicine (input from Geoff here!)

The fragmentary nature of these suggestions is a reflection of the more than fragmentary nature of my knowledge of education. In spite of twenty-five (reluctant) years in the business, I have never had an overall view of education, except as far as foreign language teaching is concerned.  This may be a professional defect, but it is essential to acknowledge one’s shortcomings in an enterprise like this.

The Allan Harris Conference on Education produced some very good material which was published in the T&T Review.  I suggest we invite some of the contributors to that conference to participate in our discussions and help us to give them some shape.

Possible contact for knowledge on national education policy is Dr. Jeanette Morris of the Faculty of Education.

See Contribution : Denis Solomon • Veronica CollensPhilip FortuneShane Collens • Leonard Bernstein

See Collective Statement : TT Humanist : Forum : Commentary : Education

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