A senior official at the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) has warned that the region’s education system is not only “elitist”, but that it is failing the majority of students.
Addressing a consultation on Regional Education and Human Resource Development Strategy at the head office of the Caribbean Examinations Council yesterday, the CDB’s Operations Officer for Education Dr Martin Baptiste further cautioned that the Caribbean was losing 70 per cent of its human resource potential as a result of the current system, which he said only catered to the top 30 per cent of students.
“We need to recalibrate where we are. Our system, I think you would agree, has largely been elitist. We have done very well catering to the top 30 per cent. Our system is properly designed like that. We start with mass access in primary, we then move into a secondary system that begins to segment students based on abilities in very limited areas … . The other intelligences are not so properly represented. So across the region the child who is very good at cultural intelligences, if he or she is not careful will find his or herself understood as being underachieving or unintelligent,” Baptiste said.
He warned that if the region is to keep pace with the rest of the world, it must find avenues for all children to express themselves.
“The system we have now does not allow our students to demonstrate the skill and genius that he or she has. We have put a system that is very much restrictive, so we need to talk about how do we reconfigure the system to address the needs of the 70 per cent that we are currently not catering for,” Baptiste said.
He further cautioned that there was an inextricable link between those who fall between the education cracks and the economically and socially disenfranchised.
“The top 30 per cent will always do well, they have done very well. But we need now to move to the excluded and vulnerable . . . because those are the ones whose level of frustration have not been properly nurtured and the ones that present the greatest risk to themselves, to their families, to the society and to the economy,” he said.
“It is simply no longer enough to present a lesson, I must ensure that the minimum level of mastery is attained by every child because I am building an intelligence, I am building a competence of persons and I need not leave that child behind. When you have a contractor before we do not pay them to mix cement, we pay them to build room,” said Baptiste, who advocated for a holistic approach to the education system.