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Up! up! my Friend, and quit your (note)books (and tablets); Or surely you’ll grow double (visioned) . . .
– With apologies to William Wordsworth from his poem, The Tables Turned.
From time to time there are calls to renovate or overhaul our education system. Frequently there is the suggestion that this or that subject be added to the already over-burdened curriculum, either at primary or secondary level.
If, however, a variety of educational agents make a contribution to the full personal and social development of an individual, where are the changes to be made if we use the generally accepted UNESCO definition, which shows three distinct types: (1) Formal education is the hierarchically structured, chronologically graded, educational system running from primary through to tertiary institutions; (2) Informal education is the process whereby every individual acquires attitudes, values, skills and knowledge from daily experience, such as from family, friends, peer groups, the media and other influences and factors in the person’s employment; and (3) Non-formal education is organised educational activity outside the established formal system, that is intended to serve an identifiable learning clientele with identifiable learning objectives.
To be sure, if we continue with a heavy reliance on electronic media, our young people shall never know what Wordsworth suggested, “. . . One impulse from a vernal wood/May teach you more of man,/Of moral evil and of good,/Than all the sages can . . . .”
I can see hands raised and/or Google tapped as the questions arise: What is a vernal wood? What are sages? Oh well, we have a long way to go.
My preference is to revivify non-formal education – scouts, guides, cadets, photography, debating, drama groups and so on. What is greatly needed are leaders in each sphere who are committed and able – rather than throw more weight on the formal system.
We may well have to offer the leaders a stipend, but their work has to be regularly evaluated, not only by peers but by the students as well.
Of course, one can’t ‘‘capture the whole school’’; one never can even with the best opportunities available. Indeed, no current or modified curriculum can meet the needs of all students.
True, the education engine needs to be overhauled from time to time.
This is so because education is a life-long adventure in which we all need to join and the destinations once so certain, are not anymore. In fact, they are so varied that we shall find that more students set forth hoping to reach point A but in the meantime that has morphed into A+B+C.
In all, what remains true is that the foundation must be solid. We can build schools and put students in them just to say “I did it”, but the student without the foundation shall cry out, “I can’t do it”.
This brings me to the tertiary level. Why do we need another campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) in Antigua? Is it just to say “I did it”?
In an era when the UWI funding is deficient, why do we want to add more unnecessary expense, plant, staff, water, energy costs, resource materials, etcetera? In an era when universities are going to the students – distance learning – and not students going to the university, why saddle the region with another ‘‘come to this location’’ campus?
For goodness sake, people, overhaul and/or renovate your thought and education engines and bring them into 21st century action.
– MICHAEL RUDDER