Letters & Opinion

Back to School: Government to Reform National Education Landscape

SCHOOL reopened on Monday 4, September 2023, for the academic year 2023 to 2024. And government is well poised to reform the National Education Landscape.

The first area of focus is the area of early Childhood Education or Development. Now early childhood is a pivotal period of child development that begins before birth to age 5, and is referred to as the formative years. Present day educationists put it up to age 8.

It may surprise you to know that while the child is developing in the mother’s womb, he or she is learning. This is the period when the child learns more quickly than any other time in his or her lifetime.

Jean Piaget, an outstanding psychologist from Switzerland, explained that children develop by exploring and interacting with their world or environment to understand people, objects and concepts or ideas. They do this naturally even without the help of adults.

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It is for those reasons that the government of St. Lucia is putting much emphasis on early childhood or pre-school education. And that is commendable. Now when the St. Lucia Labour Party government says that it is ‘putting people first’, that is a clear reflection of that principle.

The Government of St. Lucia, through the Ministry of Education, will also put emphasis on the one laptop for every child programme. As I write, every child in secondary school already has a laptop. I mean in every secondary school on the island.

Indeed, using laptops in the school classrooms will help the students to learn to type quickly and accurately. They can record notes much faster than writing by hand. Technology is used in conducting research, developing the materials, managing the student information, and communicating with their peers, other students and parents.

The laptops can help students stay organized and remember the school work; the students can easily review their work all in one place. They can edit, change and copy their work; they can also send their work via email to their classroom teachers. The students can learn writing skills, creativity, communication and cooperation by using technology in learning so that their skills and competencies could be improved.

The laptops provide the class teachers with a unique opportunity to educate all types of students including those who are struggling and have special needs. Those skills include voice recognition, text to speech conversion, translating, volume control, work prediction to making learning more fun and effective for the students as well as the teachers who facilitate the learning process.

Already, 2000 incoming students in Form 1 each received a laptop during the period of orientation.

I am very sure that parents are happy that their children entering Form 1 are in possession of a laptop to enhance their learning experiences.

Indeed, all students in Form 5 have been issued with brand new laptops to help them with their SBA’s or School Based Assessment programmes which would enable them to facilitate their academic pursuits.

Government has also paid two million dollars to schools for facilities fees, so that parents would not have to find the money to pay facilities fees for their children. What a great love for people!

Indeed, education is the pathway to self-development. And it is clear that government is placing much emphasis on education as a pathway to self-development and Hon. Shawn Edward is well poised to achieve that goal as the policy head of the Ministry of Education.

As part of the reformation in education, the Ministry of Education has introduced a National Awards of Excellence. Indeed, this is an excellent external motivator.

As an educator myself, I am aware that recognising the efforts of students can go a very long way in promoting excellence. And that programme should not be taken lightly because of the potential that it has both in education or the social world.

The government will pay the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) fees in English and Mathematics for all students. The long-term goal is to pay all CSEC examination fees in all subjects before too long. Parents can now have a relaxed mind knowing that they do not have the problem of finding the money to pay examination fees.

Now considering education as the pathway to self-development, it is the desire of the government to provide the opportunity for families in St. Lucia to have at least one university graduate in every household.

In this regard, the government has increased scholarships to study both at home and abroad. As I write, some one hundred first generation students have already begun studies at the Monroe College in St. Lucia.

Now first generation refers to the top level of the ‘family tree’. To explain it further, I am the first of my mother’s children. My brothers and sisters or siblings also form part of that first generation. Our children form the second generation; and our children’s children form the third generation; and so on.

In addition, students who are pursuing higher education at the University of the West Indies ‘Open Campus’, will receive government assistance. Now an open campus is a learning institution in which students would attend classes only in the subjects for which they are registered. For example, the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College offers programmes in Agriculture, Nursing, Education and others. Therefore, students who are registered in the nursing programme will only be allowed to attend classes in that programme.

And teachers’ allowance which government had started, will be increased by $600 which would enable them to obtain additional resources for their students.

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