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Region’s education system needs to focus on more than academics – Skerrit

by Barbados Today
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Recruitment grounds for gangs will dry up with the reform of the region’s educational system, says Prime Minister of Dominica Roosevelt Skerrit.
Speaking at the Regional Symposium on ‘Violence as a Public Health Issue – The Crime Challenge’, he highlighted the need for an urgent review of the Caribbean’s heavily-academic education system which he said leaves little time for helping to build socially-minded individuals.
“I believe that will help tremendously in helping to dry up the recruitment grounds for these violent behaviors, because we’re talking about guns, but we also need to focus on antisocial behavior, which sometimes leads to the extreme end of using guns and other weapons to advance violent behaviors.
“And so we moved from seven subjects at CXC and GCE, to now 15 and 18 per student. The same five hours hasn’t been increased, but we’ve increased the number of subjects being offered to our students. Sports and Physical Education have taken second place. Extracurricular activities in the classroom no longer exist, and yes, we boast of the percentage of passes of CXC examinations and national exams, but we fail to pay attention to the 20 and the 30 per cent of those who did not get to the matriculation level. I think we are focusing on those who do well academically, but we fail to pay attention to the mental and emotional state of our children,” he said to the applause of those gathered at the Hyatt Regency of Trinidad and Tobago.
In addition, he stressed that groups in society have been abdicating their responsibilities in helping to raise children.
“Now it is solely up to the Ministry of Education to educate our children. Where are our parents and guardians? Where is the clergy in its missionary work and its evangelical work? Where is the business community?
“In the business community, we are more concerned about the dollar profits, and we only talk about crime when it affects our businesses, not because our children are dying. And I think that we need to get the different groups in the society to spend more time in terms of ‘what is my contribution to address the social challenges confronting our country?’” Skerrit added.
Saying “a dramatic and urgent review of the school curricula” will proactively help to reduce the number of youth joining gangs, he insisted it is time to focus less on exams and more on creating well-rounded individuals.
“We have many more opportunities now than we had in the 70s and 60s for our children to allow for us to focus less on the rigours of examinations. Many of us have children in primary school and look at the extent of the textbooks which have to be purchased. The heaviness of the bags going to school and the volume of homework, all dealing with academics. Nothing about the child’s wellbeing; nothing about interaction with other groups in any community, the senior citizens and others to appreciate the importance of life,” Skerrit stressed.
(JB)

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