The Opposition Barbados Labour Party, and apparently, a large number of Barbadians believe that it was not necessary to set up a commission of enquiry in order to bring a solution to the absolutely untenable situation at the Alexandra School.
The BLP, and apparently, a large number of Barbadians believe that the $600,000-plus being spend on the commission, headed by retired High Court judge Frederick Waterman could have been better spent on other areas of national interest.
On both counts we agree!
However, the Government has made its decision, the streets of Barbados are awash with dirty linen and without pre-judging the possible recommendations of the commission, we believe it is quite reasonable to conclude, even at this stage, that Alexandra School will never be the same again. In similar vein, the management of schools generally and the delivery of education are about to change forever.
After all that has been said, we do not see how any administration that genuinely has the interest of Barbadians at heart will not see the need for an urgent, total rewrite of the Education Act, and the formulation of an accompanying set of regulations that are so detailed and comprehensive that all the instances of ambiguity that not exist are eliminated.
For sure, there is no way that education authorities can move forward from where we are now without revamped legal instruments that clearly define the role and responsibilities of boards of management in schools. By now the entire country must be in no doubt that new rules must be established to govern their interaction with principals in order to achieve clearly defined outcomes that are consistent across institutions.
If the evidence led so far at the commission, or at least what has made it into the public domain via the news media, is anything to go by it is also clear that the human resource management capacity of the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development is particularly weak.
Worse yet, it would appear, that operating procedures in secondary schools vary dramatically from school to school, leaving one to wonder who in the ministry is responsible for setting and monitoring standards — and acting appropriately when operatives fall short.
Based on what we have heard coming out of the hearing so far, and what we have been aware of even before the enquiry got underway, we can’t help but conclude that while many of our principals at both the primary and secondary level have distinguished themselves over many years as teachers of the highest quality, management training appears not to be the most critical factor before or after appointment.
Quite frankly substandard results, or outright failure, are the only certain outcomes when principals are not prepared for their jobs; and to be fair to them, they are few private sector entities in which managers are responsible directly for 800 to 1,000 persons daily. That’s what principals have to contend with every day when students and staff are totalled.
Now put that within the context of having to manage as many as 50 or 60 highly educated, intelligent and thinking teachers whose minds are being constantly stimulated by their preparing for teaching and the ever inquisitive children they teach. A principal not prepared for this scenario is a principal doomed to failure.
Above all, we are convinced that a priority of any new legislation must make all principals equally and directly accountable to the Chief Education Officer — on paper and in practise. They must be creatures of the ministry, not the school.