Wed | Jul 26, 2017

Audley Shaw: Rescue infants from glorified day care

Published:Friday | August 15, 2014 | 8:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

I take note of your qualified commendation of the announced improvement in the recent Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate exams, especially in mathematics.

While this is encouraging, I, too, caution the need for deeper analysis, some of which you presented in your editorial 'Holding the education whoops for now' (August 14, 2014).

A key question that must be asked is whether the improved pass rates are based on roughly the same number of students taking the exams now as did on previous occasions.

I have often listened to high-school principals proudly announcing increased pass rates only to find that a smaller number of the cohort were deemed qualified and allowed to sit the tests, thereby showing great performance among those who actually took the test while the majority of students don their gowns for graduation having not even qualified to sit the tests.

When are we all going to wake up to the fact that a mind is a terrible thing to waste? When will we recognise, as Edwin Allen said in the 1960s, that "mediocrity is not excellence"? When can we all agree that our educational system is gravely dysfunctional because we fail to prepare the majority of our children from age three with three years of solid preparation so that, by grade one, at six years old, many children are functionally literate and ready for grade one matriculation?

I have stated time and again that the Government needs to take over the early-childhood education system. Leave privately well-run schools alone, but convert the majority, which are just day-care centres, into properly run schools with a curriculum and trained teachers.

STOP BURYING HEADS IN SAND

We now have 2,000 underutilised teachers being paid and 2,000 trained teachers looking for work. Why not retrain these 4,000 teachers in early-childhood teaching techniques and staff an infant-school system to prepare our kids for the future? Why do we bury our heads in the sand and ignore the fact that a child's brain is fully developed in his/her first five years of life?

So if we know this, why is Government only taking responsibility for the majority of our children's education at six years old? Our system is dysfunctional because 'what tan bad a mawnin can't come good a evenin'.

And what's the cost of this takeover? Ten billion dollars a year. This represents about eight per cent of the cash reserves now held by the PetroCaribe Development Fund earning interest at the bank, while our human resources, our greatest natural asset, go to waste and 75 per cent of our children leave our school system mostly semi-literate and without a skill.

Incidentally, one of the stated objectives of the PetroCaribe Development Fund is human resource development.

Trinidad has done it over the past six years spanning two political administrations. Yes. Trinidad is now in charge of educating all its children from they are three years old, joining countries like South Korea, China, Japan and Cuba.

Do we have the courage to start this by the next Budget in April, IMF or no IMF? Can we have consensus around just this one issue which is the greatest single crisis that we face. Not crime, not murder, not the economy, but our crisis of human underdevelopment?

Can we just stop tinkering at the edges and fiddling while Rome burns? Do we have the courage to rescue our future and understand that the starting point to accomplish this is to rescue the minds of our little children?

AUDLEY SHAW

MP, North East Manchester