Fri | Nov 27, 2015

Barbados, miles ahead in education policy

Published:Tuesday | October 19, 2010 | 12:00 AM

The Editor, Sir:

"No matter how long you teach a fool, he still knows everything," Leonid Sukhorukov.

If we are convinced as a nation that, 'by losing ground in our schools we've also lost ground in our economy', then we need to treat education as a national emergency. Not far from Jamaica, is a tiny island with a better than First-World educational system. With far less resources, they have managed to outperform us in education and health care.

Journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, a reporter for the United States newspaper The Oregonian reveals mind-boggling statistics about this tiny island (Barbados). It defies notions of black educational inferiority and underachievement. It graduates 98 per cent of its high school students; 53 per cent go on to college. This 90 per cent black nation not far from the US shores has the second-highest literacy rate in the world, with 99.7 per cent of its population literate, it falls one-tenth of a point behind the three nations tied for first in the world: Cuba, Estonia and Poland.

The key to this country's success is fourfold-high expectations for all students, strict discipline, substantial education spending and a culture that embraces education as a form of nationalism.

"I cannot perceive of meeting someone in my society who can't read," says Dr James Carmichael, a former secondary school teacher and computer scientist. This tiny island funnels a fifth of its national budget into education and spends 6.9 per cent of its entire gross national product on education. Students there attend school for free from pre-kindergarten to university.

The Government also provides free breakfast and lunch to all students. In health care all its nationals of all ages have universal free access to health care, something Jamaica is struggling to maintain while the opposition is convinced we can't afford it.

All of these factors help place this country first among developing nations on the United Nations Human Development Index, an indicator of not just a nation's wealth but its quality of life. Teachers in this tiny island are held in esteem and disrespectful behaviour isn't tolerated; the ultimate tool in their disciplinary arsenal remains corporal punishment.

To tell you the truth Maxine Henry-Wilson and Andrew Holness, mi shame like dawg! Our government and opposition are more concerned with chasing windscreen wipers off the streets and into the waiting arms of gangs, running down poor higglers trying to eke out a living in the most deplorable conditions imaginable and defending 'dons' while telling us how much they love the poor.

I am, etc.,


Siloah PO, St Elizabeth