Our educational system has not really “collapsed”. Crucial as it is for a democratic culture and equality of opportunity, it remains largely imprisoned by a number of structural and socio-economic constraints.
And although we focus on exam results, the government seems unable to manage these constraints, leading to troubling results.
Over the years, the education system itself has been largely trapped, favorably or unfavourably, by the quality of student admission and the socio-economic pressures associated with it.
Drivers of such imprisonment include lack of parent-teacher cooperation, school management and leadership, institutional stigma and student expectations, constitutionally protected concordat, curricular gaps and constraints socio-economic to equal opportunities.
Recurring tensions between the Ministry of Education and the indispensable TT Unified Teachers’ Association (TTUTA) which has 14,000 members should be wisely eased by holding joint meetings at least once a month.
Teachers’ protests against “the whole education system” are bad news. Certainly, as Dr. Nyan Gadbsy-Dolly said, “the ministry must govern”, but in this era of popular unrest in democracies, the exercise of political power must be restrained and strategically linked.
Of course, covid19-related student absenteeism and missing catch-up classes, with 9,000 falling below 50% in ASE results, are all very troubling, especially with the downstream consequences of lower grades .
Compounding these constraints, however, is the Ministry’s apparent inability to effectively activate policies to mitigate or even eradicate some of them – particularly school infrastructure, delinquency, management and leadership in too many places. schools.
Local government school boards have not been as effective as expected, especially in comparison to church school boards. The mid-level management system of denominational school boards is better able to manage and direct schools. In public schools, the bottom-up process from principal to supervisor, ministry, and teaching services board seems too centralized, distant, and complicated for effective school management.
What could the ministry do? Rather than improving civility and institutions, the education system has unwittingly contributed to the opposite with its results.
Struggling against competition and the shortcomings of primary and secondary school, many parents, rich and poor in difficulty, send their children to “private lessons”.
What can the ministry do about this? True, it is said that “some public schools do well” while “some denominational schools do not do so well”.
However, the comparison fails the proportionality test even when we celebrate Laventille’s few or the children of poor single mothers.
In addition, the economy intervenes, with many parents sending their children to private schools, and large proportions earning high places in the SEA. International private schools allow their students who pay high fees to graduate and seamlessly enter a high school or university in the United States or Canada. These “brilliant” students, as well as our university graduates looking for jobs, leave, never to return.
What can the Ministry of Education do in the face of this class exodus? This loss of talent is unhealthy for our developing country.
Not only that, but our system of social stratification is even more overloaded at the base, leaving our Ministry of Education a helpless observer. Will the additional $30 million ($600) scholarships and vocational training courses help? Hopefully, based on the output data. But it seems we’ll never know.
Starting with the former minister, Anthony Garcia and his CEO, Harrilal Seecharan, there has been a shutdown of the ministry’s educational data on SEA, CXC, CSEC and CAPE results released annually by schools, district, subject, etc. Mr Seecharan was allowed to say that anyone who wants such data, if available, could apply “through the Freedom of Information Act”.
Why? It’s a question of liability, not national security. Can the minister help here? Information is the oxygen of democracy.
These crosstabs should be easily accessible to researchers, speakers, policy makers, the media and interested taxpayers. Opposition UNC Congresswoman Anita Haynes has repeatedly complained about the scarcity of data from the department. Imagine that, in an age of transparency and accountability. This is certainly not the scientific way to run a ministry of education. Certainly, we look forward to positive change under the leadership of PhD scientists Keith Rowley and Nyan Gadsby-Dolly.
This data was available in the department’s annual reports during the tenure of former ministers Hazel Manning and Dr Tim Gopeesingh.
It seems that the ministry now, unfortunately, is hiding by doing what it shouldn’t be doing and not doing what it should be doing.
(Professor Deosaran, a former member of the Teaching Services Commission, is the author of Inequality, Crime and Education in T&T: Removing the Masks.)