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Reflections on my journey through the Boys’ Grammar School – Part 3

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Tue, Apr 17. 2012

by OSWALD FEREIRA
madungo@shaw.ca

CHAPTER THREE – THE SCHOOL CURRICULUM

During the 1960’s, the curriculum at BGS was very heavy on academics. We were being prepared for the Junior and Senior Cambridge Examinations and later the Cambridge GCE O and A Levels. We were also in an age where teaching was still done on the chalkboard or from the text book and there were few teaching aids and resources. We were lucky that we had laboratory facilities for Sciences. We were also lucky to have foreign teachers fill in gaps where local expertise was unavailable.{{more}}

I gained a sound academic education that prepared me well to function in a university situation in the Caribbean, England and Canada. From that point of view, I was successful and the school was also successful. However, there were many areas where I felt neglected and where my education could have been more rounded and complete.

I distinctly remember my book list for the First Form. We were required to buy a New Testament for Scripture and music sheets and a Recorder for music. When we started First Form, we were told that Scripture was off the timetable as we could get religion in church and music was not on, because Pat Prescod was not available to teach. I was devastated, as I was so looking forward to music. In retrospect, I believe that the decision to drop music was foolish. Music should not have been dependent on a single individual. The 1960’s was a period when the Bamboo Melodians, a Vincentian treasure, were in their waning years. We watched a culture form die. We could have invited members of that group to come in to school and teach us to play the bamboo flute and quatro – it is music! We could have had some panmen come in to school and teach us to play pan and develop a school steel band. No, in those days, “pan” was outcast and would have no place in the BGS. We lost out on two great opportunities.

In retrospect, I agree that teaching just the New Testament may have been a challenge and perhaps controversial because of differences of religion. However, a cursory look at the various world religions – Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, etc., would have been a wonderful experience and an interesting piece of curriculum in Junior School.

We had very little by way of the Arts. A school of the calibre of BGS should have had a Theatre Arts program capable of staging plays and concerts on a regular basis in the community. We should have had a School Choir and a School Band. These days, as I read the results of the Examinations and see students gaining credits in Food Science, Music, Theatre Arts and the like and I am so proud; it’s been long overdue.

We had Physical Education classes in First Form, but they soon petered out. Despite the fact that the School had a successful annual Sports Day, cricket and soccer teams, there was little emphasis on the physical development of the students within the curriculum. We also had a year or two of Technical Education with classes in basic carpentry, electricity and metal work, but they too petered off in favour of academics as one progressed through school.

Two things stood out throughout my school years – the Cadet Corps and Sports Day. The Cadet Corps thrived because of the dedication of a few masters who devoted time after school to train a group of equally dedicated students. The students were nearly all from Kingstown as the “country boys” had to catch their transport home. I was proud of the Cadet Corps, even though I could not participate. They excelled against all other groups. It was so encouraging to hear people comment on the performance of our cadets at the Remembrance Day Parade, year after year. Sports Day was the event of the year, year after year. With the school competing in the House format and with the athletes competing individually for the title of top athlete, it made for an interesting day. I marvelled that, year after year, our athletes continued to set new records and laid down the challenges for those who would follow in their footsteps. They did this partly because they were natural jocks and many trained on their own and in their own time to achieve a high standard of success. Kudos to lads like Bunny Baptiste, Andrew Cummings, Ulpian Toney, Frank Fredericks, Mike Findlay, Keith Saunders, Clem Ballah, etc.

There was little by way of acknowledgement for academic success. While many gifts and awards were handed out on Sports Day and while there were accolades to our cricket and soccer teams when they were successful, people who achieved academically received few rewards. During my seven years at the BGS, we had two Speech Night events. Perhaps this was because we had no School Choir, no school steel band, no school band, or no theatre arts program. Staging a Speech Night became a great task, as we had to assemble a group of novices to put on a show as that appeared to be the format. Even so, like on Sports Day, we should have had an annual Awards Evening, during which individual successes could be celebrated. Perhaps an Honour Roll where those who achieved academic success would have their names displayed in the assembly hall. Given the school’s emphasis on academics, the lack of celebrating academic success was glaring – and disappointing.

Another area of disappointment was the lack of incorporation of local content into the curriculum. Never once did I have a field trip to the market, the Legislative Assembly, neighbouring Thompson Home, the Botanic Gardens, the water supply reservoir at Majorca, the Port, Fort Charlotte, Bloody Bridge in Sandy Bay, an arrowroot factory or banana station, the Owia Salt Pond, the Village at Fancy, the Carib Petroglyphs – and made to relate their significance into SVG society, history and geography.

Career counselling was another disappointment. I went through school with the impression that Law, Medicine and Engineering were the only worthy careers and Teaching and Agriculture were fall back positions. Any wonder that SVG appears to produce an over abundance of Lawyers? I remember Mr Hadley once in passing mentioning that studying Geography did not mean a life in Teaching, but we should look at possibilities such as Geophysics. But, as I was just doing Physics to get my basic credit, I dismissed Geophysics as a career. That was the closest I ever came to any career counselling. As an elite school, there should have been a Career Counsellor on staff to guide us on to a life after BGS. Instead, we fell into a career or decided on a career choice later in life.

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