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Educational reformation


Fri, Jan 13. 2012

Editor: Politics has to be one of the most humbling professions in the world. Unlike other non-religious vocations, the main objective of all politicians is to serve the people; both supporters and non-supporters alike. However, like all things, the stated goal is more of an aspiration than a reality. Politicians are vested with immense responsibility, so much that it supersedes the authority they are granted.{{more}} This responsibility, contrary to public opinion, can be a burden which can lead to enormous stress. Based on their roles, politicians can aid in determining the direction a nation takes. Take for example the thrust towards universal access to education, represented by the oft mentioned phrase “educational revolution”. Without having access to the desired outcomes and, therefore, achievements of the venture, I want to suggest that it might be time for an educational reform.

A lot has been written about the success of the educational systems of Asian countries such as South Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong. A lot more has been said about the Western educational systems built on entitlement, competition and profit. Efforts towards improving the state of a nation’s main resource – its people – always centre on education and to some lesser extent training. As a small country and economy, with little diversification as it relates to revenues, we are more indebted to the state and quality of our educational system than ever. As such, any talk about the way forward as a nation must have education as the tip of the spear, hence the suggestion to move from educational revolution to educational reformation. I am sure this is not a distant thought in the minds of our decision makers, so my suggestions are made in the spirit of aiding not criticism.

Firstly, make equity the foundation of our 21st century educational system. This gives every student the same opportunities to succeed. Remove the concept and practice of ‘top’ schools and by extension bottom schools by bringing every school on the same, leveled ground, with the same resources and attention. Though I do not have statistics to support this point, I am fairly sure that the middle-of-the-pack students would improve their performance by at least 25% initially with the students scoring lower on tests catching up very quickly after. Before we can start the conversation about excellence, we must solve the problem of inequity in the educational system. We can rightly make the case for Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) as teachers, longer/shorter school hours, smaller teacher-to-students ratios, better-designed educational facilities, advanced technology used in delivery of content, better or the removal of standardized testing and greater parental involvement – but any of this must be based on the foundation of equity. It would not be an overnight transition, nor would it be met with widespread acceptance. It may even look a bit messy for a while, but equity is the capstone upon which we must build.

The second point for consideration towards an educational reform is the message we communicate. We have pounded away at the idea that an education is needed for a job, and the higher and better-educated you are the better-paying job you would get. While this has its merit, it is not the whole story and reduces an education as preparation for a job interview. This approach loses its veracity and impact whenever there is widespread unemployment and underemployment. Instead of linking education to career mobility, we need to expand the message that education correlates to the very quality of life we enjoy. Rather than a production-based approach to education, we should promote a holistic message that says that equitable education is as important as potable water and a part of recognizing the inherent dignity of all men and women. The message is important because cultural change starts with and is propelled through the medium of communication.

This is where our politicians come in; through policy and promotion they can steer the ship right. By instituting equitable education they can allow themselves to be held accountable to a public that would be the first beneficiaries of this approach. As change agents and some of the most visible persons in our society, they can be the mouthpieces for the reformation. Forget the present and consider the lasting legacy of being a pioneer.

As for the citizens, our roles are not limited to being beneficiaries only, but participants and assessors in the sense that the consumers ultimately know what is best for them.

Kenyatta Lewis