EDITORIAL: Fix it Mr Jones, for the sake of our children
OUR EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM is experiencing choppy waters and it is not going to be an easy or clear course for those at the helm to navigate.
Almost overnight the problems at both the primary and secondary levels seem to have mushroomed, with teachers, parents and, most importantly, students all appearing to be affected by a plethora of new or unsettled issues. It seems as if the educational environment is fraught with turmoil.
This conclusion may be based more on perception than reality, but there is no illusion that serious issues have been raised nationally and must be dealt with by those driving the process – the Ministry of Education. Ronald Jones, the minister, must take leadership of a potentially explosive situation and not seek to downplay the challenges he faces.
No one stands to gain from confrontation between the agitated Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union and Barbados Union of Teachers and a ministry they seem to believe is behaving too casually.
Teachers on the picket line at a time when there is a heavy focus on internal and external examinations will anger both parents and students. There should be little or no disruption which can negatively affect the students’ welfare. Yet, there is a real danger that everything could come to a screeching halt based on the unions’ warnings. This would be a most undesirable situation.
Teachers should recognise that they cannot uphold their reputation simply because they are disgusted with perceived constant public outcries against them. This is a new era where no one or institution is immune from attacks and often the best way to respond is by doing an even better job. We believe that our teachers have some just causes they need to relentlessly defend, but industrial action at this time may not be the best solution. Members of this very noble profession must expect to hear diversified viewpoints about their performance today, even from the uninformed, or those who are biased. Teachers have to open themselves to greater accountability and better evaluation systems while demanding enhanced training. We want to cherish our teachers.
At the same time, bad behaviour by parents or students directed against teachers must not be tolerated since it has the potential to undermine the entire value system meticulously built up over many years.
But, some things need to be change. The Education Act is a good place to start since our one-size-fits-all system has been a failure, and may be the cause for some of the problems within the classroom. The dynamics of education and society also means the Ministry of Education must be forever innovating.
Success or failure of our education system not only decides the future of the individual student, but also charts the country’s economic path. A great deal is at stake, which is why this dispute must be quickly resolved. Education is simply too important.