GOV’T ADVISED TO PULL FROM 13-YEAR-OLD REPORT TO FIX PROBLEMS IN EDUCATION SYSTEM
By Emmanuel Joseph
An education expert is recommending that Government draw on the provisions of the 2010 Report of the National Advisory Commission on Education (NACE) if it is serious about introducing educational reform.
Lecturer in Educational Leadership at the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI), Dr Ian Marshall argues that the 13-year-old report has the capacity to address the concerns facing the education system.
Those include overcrowded schools, severely underfunded primary schools, inadequate number of education officers, limited implementation of teacher evaluation system, limited opportunities for teacher career advancement and a high-stakes test environment.
Dr Marshall, who is also a tutor in educational management and administration and research methods at the Erdiston Teachers’ Training College, also identified limited focus on student remediation and inclusion at both ends of the spectrum, absence of accountability measures for teachers and principals, absence of mandatory ongoing professional training for principals and teachers, and severe curriculum misalignment as other core provisions in the commission’s report
When you look at the proposed educational reform, it begs the question as to whether the proposed changes – abandonment of Common Entrance, introduction of middle schools and schools of excellence – have the capacity to address the concerns identified by the NACE report. The short answer is that the reforms, which have been reduced to a PowerPoint presentation, do not,” Dr Marshall told Barbados TODAY on Thursday.
“So, my suggestion is this – dispense with the idea that you will be able to change in excess of 50 years of entrenched elitism and cultural norms and focus instead on the fundamentals.”
The educational consultant who travels throughout the Eastern Caribbean training current and prospective educational leaders in leadership best practices said there must be a focus on primary and pre-primary education.
“The ludicrous practice of financing primary schools with budgets of $3 000 and $8,000 per year must stop or, as indicated by the NACE report, spending $13 or $18 per child. This has reduced the primary schools to virtual supermarkets and fundraising enterprises just to meet basic needs. The consequence of this is that instruction, paradoxically, is constantly being sacrificed,” contended Dr Marshall.
He queried why Government would spend millions of dollars on a beautification programme, where workers debush today and by the next week they must be paid to debush again, while spending only $13 or $18 per child on education.
Dr Marshall said there is abundant research that investment in education pays dividends at multiple levels, including social and economic.
The author of several publications on educational leadership further recommended a focus on teacher quality, noting that they are being asked to “do miracles” while their needs are not being met.
“No educational system can rise above the quality of its teaching force. Therefore, if the goal is to reform education, it is the teachers that will drive the reformation effort.
Therefore, focus on improving the quality of our teaching force, facilitate their needs which have gone unmet for too long,” he advised.
Dr Marshall said that as a first step, consideration should be given to ensuring that the Teaching Service Commission “is more than a theoretical reality.”
“The third thing that needs to be done is to reduce the class sizes and give equal focus to the 70 per cent of the primary school student population which the data have consistently shown is being disadvantaged by our assessment methods. The fourth thing is to engage in a regime that ensures that all schools are equal in terms of resources and personnel. This may necessitate building more schools and retrofitting others to ensure that irrespective of the school you attend the facilities are the same,” he asserted.
“The fifth thing is to address the resource limitations that teachers and principals face daily. Reinvigorate teaching and the principalship by introducing incentives and accountability systems tied to student learning outcomes. The sixth thing is to introduce a system of continuous and authentic assessment and move away from one-shot exams,” the university lecturer added, noting that “all these ideas were indicated in the NACE report”.