The education system in Barbados is failing students.
This surprise admission today from none other than the Minister of Education Ronald Jones, who said he was no longer prepared to hide from this ugly truth.
In fact, Jones told the opening of an Education For All (EFA) Stakeholders’ Forum at United Nations House that far too many students –– having received 14 years of nursery, primary and secondary education –– were “falling through the cracks and [being] put out into the streets to make nuisances of themselves”.
Furthermore, he lamented that there was still a major segment of our secondary school population leaving school after six or seven years, not being able to write one CSEC [Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate] Exam. And, in some cases, students were simply “waiting patiently to open the exit door so that they can leave”.
“That is a qualitative fact. I am not quarrelling with anybody . . . . It is speaking to the truth and unless we come to the centre of the truth, we are going to continue to make substantive errors in the provision of education in Barbados for our young people,” warned Jones.
“I have as minister to speak to that. Nobody is in my place when the Prime Minister says: ‘Minister, what is happening?’ I have to answer. Education cannot, should not and must not be shortchanged. I am done, I am finished hiding,” he stressed.
Speaking to an audience that included high-ranking ministry officials and teachers, a passionate Jones called on all stakeholders to join efforts to improve the quality of education on the island. Otherwise, he said, the millions of resources being provided would prove ineffective over time.
“We have to practise guerrilla warfare when necessary,” the minister said.
He also spoke of the need for training institutions, such as Erdiston Teachers Training College, to empower educators to change their approach and style of teaching in the 21st century classroom where students must be empowered and allowed to express themselves respectfully.
He said the education system also needed to ensure that quality education was available for all students, regardless of where they were on the learning curve, noting that “part of the function of the school is to change, modify the behaviour”.
“I am not saying we are going to get 100 per cent; that is standing in the face of God,” said Jones.
However, “we can’t have, or we shouldn’t have, the teacher who walks to the classroom insipid, uninspiring,” he cautioned.
He said students today seemed to be learning from dancehall artistes who they felt were bringing something to them that they understood and appreciated.
The minister also voiced concern about the “little hiccup in the transfer of students from primary to secondary school where girls are scoring two to three points higher than boys”.
He suggested, this trend was as a result of social engineering where girls were burning progressive trails.
“We cannot have our young women moving ahead at the galloping pace and our young men, who will be their future husbands, being left behind. That creates its own problems with a given society.
“There is an interesting peculiarity and I have noticed it, where young men would take the ladies to university and Community College on evenings, turn around and exit while the young ladies go to classes; that is a problem. If you are in a courtship you should be sitting beside each other and learning together. Why is this particular behaviour being manifested at this time?”