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Not enough effort being placed on primary education – Senator Lewis

Not enough effort being placed on primary education – Senator Lewis

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Universal access to secondary education, an initiative of the Unity Labour Party (ULP) government, has resulted in increased truancy and juvenile delinquency.

This claim was made by Opposition senator and chair of the New Democratic Party (NDP) Dr Linton Lewis, {{more}}as he addressed a town hall meeting at Friends of Crown Heights in Brooklyn, New York, last Saturday.

Lewis, in explanation, said the ULP administration did not place sufficient emphasis on primary education.

“Even though I wrote extensively on meritocracy and the role that education plays in a meritocracy, still little emphasis was placed on primary education,” he stated.

According to Lewis, who is an attorney, children were promoted from one class to the next without having the requisite reading, writing and numerical skills.

“To put it simply, they couldn’t read or write well enough. They were placed in secondary schools even though they failed the Common Entrance Examinations. They (the children) will turn around and say what’s the use of studying? I am getting placed. There’s no effort, no motivation, no incentive for them to sit down and do their work,” Lewis said.

The Opposition senator stressed that these children were exposed to a level of work, for which they were not prepared and noted that many of them were unable to do the work in and out of the classroom.

“School was no longer a happy place to be. For many, failure became the norm rather than the exception. So, many had to leave school either because they failed too often or they were subjected to great embarrassment of having to feel inferior within their classroom and among their peers,” Lewis stated.

“Can you imagine what it is like to want to pass and then made to feel that you are dull, you are dunce, everybody is doing well, teachers speaking nice to those who [are] doing well and you’re there failing, because you can’t read what’s on the board?”

Lewis also mentioned that teachers complained about the children’s inability to read and not being able to understand the work that was presented to them.

“The situation became chaotic… Never before in the history of our country have we seen so many children on the streets during school hours,” Lewis said, adding that some have even dropped out and turned to begging as a way of life.

Lewis is of the view that as a result of universal secondary education, there is a decline in society, as young people can’t afford to stay in school because of the lack of confidence and failure and have taken to the streets.

He said some of these dropouts have even turned to a life of crime.

While admitting that there have been success stories arising from universal secondary education, Lewis said, when one compares those success stories with the failures, the success stories are few and far between.

“Those who have managed to benefit and have gone on to secure a university education and successfully completed their course of study must be commended.

Lewis, a former teacher, also said that little emphasis is placed on technical vocational subjects.

“Those young people who are not academically inclined, but who demonstrate an aptitude and manifest ability to be skilful, will find it very challenging under the ULP administration to develop those God given talents,” Lewis added.

“The ULP removed from the private schools, the woodwork and home economic centres… Very few of our young people are engaged in these activities…,” he said.

The NDP, who Lewis says values education “immensely,” would re-introduce skills training as a matter of urgency, by utilising the community centres.

“We will be placing a lot of emphasis on primary education to ensure that our children are able to read and write at a level equivalent to their age groups.

“Children who are slow learners will have access to remedial teaching to bring them up to the standards required,” Lewis said, adding that every child should be afforded equal opportunity from the beginning.

Last Saturday’s meeting was also addressed by NDP candidate for North Windward Lauron “Sheara” Baptiste.(KW)

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