THE EDITOR, Sir:
It was very interesting to hear the minister of education saying that additional time needs to be given to mathematics in schools. The logistics of how that would be implemented is not the main concern, but the insistence on placing more emphasis on one particular subject as opposed to the others.
Notwithstanding the importance and value of mathematics to the education system and to individuals, more emphasis needs to be given to other subject areas in helping to augment the overall educational experience. A multifaceted approach is, therefore, needed to help correct some of the ills of the current system.
Have we stopped to realise that we have not directly taught students how to learn? It's akin to employing a random individual from the streets to be the permanent secretary within the Ministry of Education, expecting him/her to perform and do so excellently; without any prior training or education in building competence for this job.
Certainly, that ministry would not be effectively and efficiently managed, if at all. Added to this deficiency is the fact that we have not paid sufficient attention to the soft skills that students are required to have, most of which are not taught or sufficient attention and time is not afforded.
The instilling of soft skills; life and survivability skills, coping skills; teaching students how to learn, study and become holistic individuals are part of the remit of the guidance counsellor within the schools.
For too long we have neglected the importance of the role and responsibility of the guidance counsellor. There seems to be no definitive effort by the education ministry to have more of these vital professionals.
The inefficiencies and inadequacies of some of these guidance counsellors in the schools are linked to several factors, including the alarmingly high student-counsellor ratio, a full teaching timetable, inadequately trained individuals occupying these posts, among other things.
As part of the solution, the Ministry of Education needs to deploy more trained and qualified guidance counsellors; and place more emphasis on teaching students the skills they need in preparation for learning; assign teacher aides, especially at the secondary level, to help augment the offerings and provide personalised attention; and, finally, place more emphasis on students' emotional, social, and psychological well-being.