Barbados’ education system will need to be dismantled if authorities wish to thoroughly address the country’s troubling social issues.
So says Democratic Labour Party (DLP) President Verla DePeiza who believes plans by Prime Minister Mia Mottley to abolish the longstanding Common Entrance Exam are merely tackling “low hanging fruit”. Instead, she’s hoping to see a “multi-faceted” approach to 21st century education, tailored to address the peculiar needs of students instead of forcing them into the “box of our education”.
“Our education system has been lauded and praised for decades without appreciating that it has not moved in any way whilst society has done so. As such, we need to have a complete dismantling and reshaping of what education is,” DePeiza
She was addressing a panel discussion on Sunday night at the party’s George Street, St. Michael Headquarters entitled Crime, Youth, and Opportunities.
The president added: “No one who learns by ‘rote’ is sufficiently equipped for the technological age that requires you to think laterally. Our societal issues require engineering and I don’t mean that in the mathematical and scientific sense, but engineering in the social sense where we are actively looking for solutions.”
PM Mottley, during her first national address this year, told Barbadians her government was still exploring the possibility of totally abolishing the Common Entrance Exam and introducing middle schools to replace the current outdated system.
So broken is the current system, the DLP leader stressed, that “anything else is worth a try”, while maintaining certain glaring deficiencies need to be addressed.
“You can tinker with it over time but you need to have a system that critically analyses students from an early age to identify their strengths and their weaknesses. Everybody is imbued with some sort of talent. Whether you consider the Bible to be your guiding light or just a book of really good stories, you would know the parable of the talents,” the political leader recalled.
DePeiza continued: “There wasn’t a single one who had none. At least one talent was given. We have to have an eye on our young people to isolate and develop their talents.”
Pointing to the past prison exhibitions and awards at NIFCA out of Her Majesty’s Prison, the DLP President insisted that even without formal training, inmates have produced “the most wonderful art”.
As such, she called for more “remedial” programmes aimed at assisting persons who have ‘fallen through the cracks’ and landed in prison.
“…We need to have programmes to reintegrate them and find what their talent is and at that late stage still hone it, because I cannot find it within me to believe that we have persons with nothing to offer to society. Even persons whom we consider to have disabilities, we have seen them apply themselves in significant ways to society,” she added.
“We all know someone who is differently able but highly capable and in the reforming of our education we have to find space in our regular classrooms for those who have unfortunate physical challenges that have no impact on their mental capabilities. We have to have the fullest reshaping of our society. We owe them a duty to make sure that all persons have an opportunity to shine in our society.”
Meanwhile, DLP General Secretary Guyson Mayers described some schools as being mere centres to hold students before they are eventually shipped off to prison and suggested urgent interventions to assist.
“We need interventions, that before these people leave secondary school, they can see something useful in their paths…How therefore do you intervene when they are not yet 15 or 16 and say to them ‘this is a useful avenue for you to walk down’?” Mayers asked.
He added: “These things are not impossible, but you have to think outside the box if you are going to successfully develop programmes of that nature.”