Russell Hammond | Let's transform education
The recently announced emphasis on early childhood education is to be commended.
The need for this focus must naturally arise as the Ministry of Education and the entire society agonise on the poor performance of a significant number of our students at the primary and secondary levels.
Certainly, successive governments have implemented initiatives designed to improve the quality of education for our students. I recall a number of them:
The requirement for our teachers to be better qualified. This has resulted in the majority of our teachers holding a first degree in a range of disciplines and a sizable number of them advancing to master's and postgraduate degrees.
The National Council on Education was introduced to provide a bipartisan approach to the administration of policy in education.
The National College for Educational Leadership was instituted to provide training for school leaders.
The Programme for Advancement through Health and Education (PATH) was introduced and improved over the past decade to assist needy families.
No longer are parents saddled with the burden of excessive school fees in our public schools and even some textbooks are provided by the Ministry of Education for students.
Despite the assistance provided, schools are still faced with high levels of indiscipline, poor attendance, and punctuality. The country is still not seeing results commensurate with the input made. This begs the question, what is it that we are failing to do?
As a parent of children at both the primary and secondary levels, I have observed that for the most part, students who succeed academically and otherwise have very supportive parents. These parents demonstrate love, care and attention in the general development of their children.
I, therefore, conclude that we have failed to address, significantly, the responsibility of parents in the thrust for improved results in education. There must be at least some minimum standard of expectations set that can hold parents accountable for ensuring that they do their part.
With the significant support provided by the Government and the varying programmes now available within the schools, the parents need to take responsibility for getting the children to school regularly and on time, access the support available that seeks to empower them in being better parents, make the necessary sacrifices in enhancing the care and protection of their children, and attend PTA meetings. Until we factor the role of the parents and the home into the equation of the educational progress of our children, the funds expended and those earmarked for education will prove inadequate and in vain.
It is necessary for Government to strengthen or implement a sustainable truancy prevention programme to ensure that students are in school when and where they ought to be. It is also necessary to establish institutions to accommodate students who, based on their disruptive conduct, cannot be educated in the mainstream school setting. Additional support and guidance must be provided for parents and other family members of these students with the aim of rehabilitating and reintegrating them back into the mainstream school environment.
The Social Development Commission must play a more critical role in monitoring and providing support to families at the community levels. The Ministry of Education and all other relevant agencies of government must respond with alacrity to the concerns raised and the suggestions put forward so that we can collectively aspire to a prosperous and productive future.