Facing growing literacy and numeracy issues with students entering the Samuel Jackman Prescod Institute of Technology, its principal has suggested Government needs to introduce remedial education at the technical college.
Principal Ian Drakes told the media on the sidelines of a presentation ceremony for an arc welding course that he is not satisfied with the level of certification at the campus as students are failing literacy and numeracy-based courses.
The principal said the institute would seek to pilot a “bridging programme” which would require students to obtain 70 percent in order for them to be given entry into one of their trade courses of choice.
“We are still getting the majority – 90 per cent between 16-20 years old – so we need to provide that bridge so we are looking at some way to budget for that so some students would have to spend 18 months, their first semester they have to get their bridging of 70 percent to move on to do the trade.
“So, therefore, you need more staff but we believe with such we would like to do a pilot, an analysis, a prognosis, a diagnosis but we believe and we are seeing that more students, for example, would pass the trade areas but they are failing [communication] skills, they are failing maths for engineers, maths for cosmetology.
“So they are failing the literacy and numeracy areas but to get the full 60 credits as we are a tertiary institution you need to be well rounded and we believe a bridging programme would help us.”
Drakes said a bridging programme is not a new idea as remedial classes have been conducted for years in American colleges and suggested that Barbados needs to adopt a similar model.
“If you are struggling in school and the principal is looking forward to when you leave school at 16 years old. You are really not ready. We are not happy but we see there is a solution in terms of a bridging programme that can really assist our young charges,” he said.
He said: “We are not certified and we realized that we have to come up with some alternatives. We realized that a lot of students are coming in with literacy and numeracy challenges and those need to be resolved and we believe we need to create a bridging programme. We are saying to the Government we want to provide the resources to deal with the bridging.
“Some students may need six weeks, twelve weeks or a semester before we get into the core. So we are saying [it should] be compulsory to do what we call bridging Maths, English, Science and whatever they need to go in the workshop to learn a trade,” he said.
Drakes said it is vital that tradespeople must be literate and numerate to be able to run successful businesses.
He told reporters: “If you cannot read a measuring tape or if you cannot read I can give you a cheque for $75,000 and you cannot read you interpret it for $75 because you have numeracy problems.
“Then you are happy to go to the bank and you are happy to get $75. You have to be able to read and communicate with the client. We believe we need to provide more bridging for our young students who are coming out of school struggling with literacy and numeracy. If they struggle there technical and vocational education you have to use your head to use your hand so it has to be academic. You have to use your head to talk to a client, to find a problem, to negotiate before you can start to cut a piece of wood. So we believe we are having that difficulty in the cohort we are getting.”
The SJPIT principal added that Government was also interested in a similar route with the establishment of the Barbados Youth Advanced Corps where the students will be trained in life skills for six weeks before coming to the Prescod Institute for further skill training.
Drakes said: “We have also been mandated to assist with that programme and in there we are looking at those cohorts which would have been turned away and we are going to be creative.
“One of the suggestions was to make the day longer in terms of having full times in the morning and the afternoon so we can deal with that intake that would have fallen off the wayside and capture those young minds at a very early age.
“So that is one of the solutions and it is a mandate as we see it as a viable solution to assist with the crisis we have with giving young persons the opportunity to do what they really want to do and we will be doing that programme through the Ministry of Education to the Ministry of Youth and Community Empowerment to assist with that programme as they take in under three weeks’ time the first intake of 250 persons and every six weeks they will be taking in 250 persons.
“We are providing after they do their internship with the Barbados Defence Force, we will be giving the trades along with other technical institutions.”
The institute’s roll is over 1,000 students as the academic year started on Monday, said Drakes, who added the college has had to turn away students due to classes being able to only hold 16 students.
But he declared that expansion at this time could be costly to Government and the taxpayers. (LG)