IT is clear as daylight that government is placing much emphasis on education as a pathway to self-development. Prime Minister Philip J. Pierre has said repeatedly that his government will put people at the centre of the development of the nation.
Indeed, the Hon. Shawn Edward is well poised to achieve that goal within the education sector.
People are the main resource of this beautiful country. And the more educated they are, the greater the chances of the overall national development of our Fair Helen. And the government understands that clearly.
It must be understood that the COVID-19 pandemic and its variants have created some setback to our education system with the long absence of teachers and students from school during the last two academic years. It has dealt a serious blow to our education system, giving way to the several new ways of providing instruction to students.
Government will now have to build the resiliency of the education system to be able to function with little or no interruption during future outbreaks as COVID-19.
Our education system should be able to recover and rebuild student access to educational opportunities very quickly after an outbreak.
Government has begun to oil the machinery to make this happen. And that will unfold as the Minister of Education presses along.
Our education system will soon develop a delivery platform that balances in-person instruction with remote learning which allows for personalization and differentiation.
Already the government has committed to support all learners. In this regard the government will make a laptop available to every school child. This is an essential tool to allow students to pursue self-development programmes. The computer could be used in and out of school and allow students to accelerate their learning. It must be understood that students will be required to have Wi Fi both at school and at home. The government will make the service available in the community where students would then access the service from home. If there is no internet there.
Ideally, students would be able to have easy access to texts books without having to purchase a hard copy. Learning would become motivating and exciting for all.
The new Education Development Plan will include linkages with other ministries. The plan will include support for mental we can easily see the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health working collaboratively.
The same strategy could be used between the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Agriculture which have begun to work collaboratively. Already, the Prime Ministry has announced that school gardens will be promoted during this current term .It means that schools will identify an agricultural Science teacher, will be provided with the necessary garden tools and seeds or seedlings.
I must reveal that I taught Agricultural Science for more than two decades without the required tools, although at that time Agriculture was the mainstay of the economy. Agriculture was not given the kind of attention which it deserved at that time, or indeed, for a very long time. Now that we have two enthusiastic ministers of Education and Agriculture, we will see things happening in our schools that we have never seen before.
The payment of CXC fees for students is another area which will bear fruit. Many parents have the pain of having to find the money to pay examination for children whom they had sent to secondary school for about five years. The government of St. Lucia, have recognized the problem, is ready to relieve parents who are unable to pay the fees. This in itself, could provide a motivation for students to learn and excel at what they‘re doing.
Not just that, government, through the Ministry of Education is currently in the process of designing and implementing a curriculum which would provide a pathway to young men to develop themselves through technical and development training (Tech. Voc) or what is popularly known as TVET. For decades, there has been very few schools in St. Lucia providing a complete TVET programme. The government of St. Lucia will, as a matter of priority, provide the necessary tools and instructors to implement a vigorous TVET programme. And I know that the young men will do justice to the programme.
Many years ago, the then Morne Technical College of the Morne Educational Complex provided a technical and vocational programme for scores of young men graduating from the Primary Schools. And they did very well. In fact, many of them were retained by the college as instructors. What they were required to pay, for registration, was minimal.
With the introduction of the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College, the registration fees had become prohibitive for many parents in the same way CXC has become. And their many male children who were more ‘hands on’ were left behind since they were unable to send them to the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College. Perhaps these are some of the young men who are creating havoc in our communities today.
As an educator I know that the girls perform ahead of the boys up until the period of adolescents when they level out. However, the CXC has shown consistently that the girls outperform the boys in academic examinations. But the boys are exceptional in the technical and vocational area. And the government is very correct in addressing that weakness in our education system.
Should the Ministry pursue that area vigorously, we will see a great reduction in crime in our country that we all will be happy about. Unfortunately, I may not be around to witness or experience it. But I am leaving with you this article which will be a reminder of the very issues that I have just outlined.