Our educational system is currently designed for those whom we label early learners. The only difference between an early learner and a late learner is that one understood taught material earlier than the other. However, both types have the same aptitude for learning. If different material was being taught that the ‘late learner’ understood first, then the labels would switch.
Since our children are taught and examined only on what our early learners are expected to understand, then our late learners will consistently score lower, and can get frustrated and disinterested in learning. If they believe the lie that it takes an exceptional brain to understand the information, and that they do not possess such a brain, then they tend to give up, and a slavery mentality is perpetuated.
How can we improve our educational system so that we do not perpetuate a system that assigns privilege to some and hardship to the rest? How can we improve the system so that all of our students can benefit and our early learners can excel? How can we make the system fair to all? That is the subject of this article.
The primary school is a time when children develop a foundation of learning. They can learn anything that they want to the breadth and depth of their interest. The more time that they spend learning something, the better they may perform when tested.
When children enter the secondary school, they should have the capacity to understand and record information to the level of a children’s novel, and perform basic calculations to the level of purchasing items in a store.
While our early learners may be capable of understanding advanced information in a newspaper and performing complex engineering calculations, the Common Entrance Examination should be limited to the basic foundation information. Therefore, the test should fairly examine basic knowledge and attitude – those who are careful will likely score higher than those who are careless, but all should understand.
In secondary school, the students should learn the easier-to-learn and fun practical aspects of subjects before the more complex theoretical aspects. Therefore, they should first learn conversational language, where they learn by building up a vocabulary of words, much like how everyone learns to speak when they were infants.
Those who are very interested in the subject will spend more time learning many more words than those who spend their time on another subject that interests them more. But they will all build a vocabulary that they can use. They can then learn the more complex verb conjugation in later classes.
In music, students should learn music by playing an instrument. Those who are more interested in an instrument will spend more time practising, and will become better. But all students will have a basic foundation on which to build a career if they choose. They can then learn the more complex music theory in later classes.
In home economics, all students should learn to cook by cooking. Those who are more interested will try a wider range of recipes and be better than those who are more interested in another subject. But everyone will have developed the skill of cooking. They can learn the more complex chemistry of vitamins in later classes.
Why do we insist on teaching the more complex and harder to learn theoretical components of subjects that only our early learners will grasp? Why have we resisted, for the past two decades, first teaching the easier to learn practical aspects that all of our students can grasp?
The reason appears to be our mistaken belief that some students will never understand complex information. Therefore, the early teaching and testing is intentionally made difficult in order to identify these dull students so that they can be mercifully reassigned to less challenging intellectual work – to serve the privileged.
(Grenville Phillips II is the president of Walbrent College who has trained over 1,000 late-learners across the Caribbean region. He is also the founder of Solutions Barbados and can be reached atNextParty246@gmail.com)