AWRIGHT DEN!: A dead horse
Bear with me as I try to gather my thoughts. I do not believe we as a people fully understand the importance and relevance of education and school in the development our society and nation.
We have become complacent, nonchalant, ungrateful and clueless to the very thing that has gotten us thus far as a people. We do not understand the value of what we have and this is primarily due to it being “free” and our pre-historic mindset that Barbados is the world.
What the Right Excellent Errol Walton Barrow started has served us well, but we need to understand that era has passed. If we continue to live in the past, we will only continue to destroy the future of our youth, making them outdated, irrelevant and unable to adequately compete in a new global market that is becoming more and more unreachable.
We saw and accepted the need for change and currently enjoy the evolutions and inventions in the world that moved us from box televisions to flat-screen HD TV; from walkmans to iPods; from pay phones to smartphones; from old cars with wind up windows to modern cars with numerous features; from written mail to email; from floppy disc to usb drives; from Kodak cameras to digital cameras, and so on.
Why is it that we embrace these new changes but we seem not to see the need for a change in our educational system? We continue to brag and ‘pompasset’ about our high literacy rate and our educational system, yet we have very little to show for it. Yes, we have a few scholars who have played important roles locally and internationally but the truth is, we are playing catch-up.
You may disagree with me and that is fine, but ask the teachers in the schools; ask the principals who continue to hold their heads when the end of term and CXC results come back; ask the year heads who sit in disbelief when they have to go into promotional meetings to inform staff that in some classes less than 15 per cent of the students have acquired the marks for promotion. Something isn’t working.
We continue to publish and celebrate publicly those few who have achieved exhibitions and scholarships but don’t share the grim reality that thousands are failing. I know of students who left our top secondary school scoring in the high 80s in mathematics, enrolled in an international school and came dead last with those grades. Comparing ourselves amongst ourselves cannot be our determining factor for excellence when we live in a global environment.
Take some time and Google the top educational systems, countries or curricula globally and nowhere do you see Barbados or the Caribbean mentioned. In 2010, when I taught at the lone International Baccalaureate (IB) School here in Barbados, Codrington School, as a teacher I felt
as if I had never been to school. I would be honest with you and say I was completely blown away at the curriculum.
The first thing that shocked me was the difference between IB testing, grading and assessment in comparison to Common Entrance and CXC. For instance, in our local curriculum, students are primarily tested on knowledge and understanding, whereas IB tests and assesses mathematics on four criteria using a rubric to grade. Those criteria are knowledge and understanding, investigative patterns, communication in and reflection in mathematics.
In July 2013, the BBC news quoted British Prime Minister David Cameron as saying “revolution in education is vital for (his) country’s economic prosperity”. This followed the British government’s launching of curriculum changes designed to catch up with the world’s best education systems. Interestingly, that year the PISA 2012 results ranked the United Kingdom at 26th.
There is a cost to pay for change and the best, but there is also a cost to pay for stagnation, irrelevance and outdatedness. The world, educational needs and systems, career strongholds and the type of students have all changed, yet we here in Barbados flogging a dead horse.
We often say if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it, but I say if it isn’t broken, check and assess it.