Denis Solomon 949 words
Our UNESCO-modified British system has produced, over the years, a considerable increase in illiteracy and functional illiteracy. Pupils in the French Overseas Departments, with the same education as metropolitan France, have a much lower success rate.
There must be many reasons for this, chief among which is that the first language of the children when they go to school is not French, but Creole. But, there as here, even when local specificities are recognised, the attempts to overcome them are often little better adapted to local needs. There is the story that French children are taught in history lessons that Nos ancêtres étaient des Gaulois (our ancestors were Gauls). In a trial programme for use of Creole in instruction, Martinican children were told that zannsèt-nou te Golwa.
That story is probably apocryphal. But I have personal experience of a situation in Guadeloupe which admirably illustrates the extent to which programmes of education and training can exhibit (like many other areas of life) the effect of a completely impractical adaptation of methodology to local needs.
For a time there was a fishing school in Guadeloupe which sought to make the industry more productive by teaching fishermen the basics of coastal navigation, fishing techniques, engine and boat maintenance. A friend of mine, a French yachtsman with several ocean voyages to his credit, wanted to go into the fishing business, and was told that he would have a better chance of getting registered as a fisherman if he took the examination of the course. The first question in the navigation section was as follows:
A fisherman wishes to leave Antigua at 0900 hours and arrive at Kahouanne at 2100 hours. There is a six-knot current setting westerly. Plot his course and speed from a point on the 200-metre line of soundings.
My friends answer was something like this:
Disregarding 1-6 above, the course and speed that would correctly answer the question (my friend gave them) would be completely impossible, for the reason that with such a course to steer the course made good would pass through the island of Desirade if the current held at six knots, and if the current should slacken, would put the vessel ashore somewhere on the north-eastern tip of Guadeloupe. The only feasible solution (again disregarding factors 1-6 above) would be to plot at least two courses, one to the north-eastern tip of Guadeloupe and one from there to Kahouanne. This would have the added advantage that the fisherman would have the current in his favour during the second half of the voyage.
The examiners, who had probably never been to sea, had obviously taken a question from some manual and altered it to make it more relevant.
Of the twelve candidates, my friend was the only one to fail the examination. The instruction at the school was later found to be ineffective, and the school was closed. As a substitute project, thirty Guadeloupe fishermen were sent to France to learn fishing. Twenty-nine quickly married Frenchwomen and stayed in France. Only one returned to enhance the productivity of the Guadeloupean fishing industry.
Copyright © Denis Solomon Trinidad and Tobago Humanist Association www.humanist.org.tt/humanist/forum/solomon