As a nation, we no doubt stand at a place where we want the very best for our children; we want them to have a ‘Good Education’ – want them to ‘succeed’ but after decades, except for the renaming of the ‘Common Entrance Examination’, to Secondary Education Assessment (SEA) and the fact that each child is now given a chance to attend secondary school, it would appear that not much has changed.
My experience is that our education system is still stuck with piles of testing and certifications- certification that is believed to be the trait of one who is well educated. My unease is that unless there is a clear understanding of what education is, let alone good education, our system will continue to undermine the innate talents and skills of our children.
Book bags are still packed with books with contents that students must know in order to ‘succeed’. They carry large volumes of homework that will help them a pass Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) and become ‘a success.’ The system wants them all to learn the skill of reading, even if some do not understand why they need to read, perform mathematical computation with admirable ease, recite poems, memorise spelling so that they get ten out of ten, practise as many examples of possible SEA questions so that they emerge as ‘an outstanding student’.
It is however common knowledge that not all of our children are able to cope with this rigid regime. Yet the system continues to measure the success of children by the said examination, forgetting that they are no less capable of achieving their potential, than those that pass the test with honours.
But since experiences are our greatest teachers, the pertinent questions for us as parents/carers, school teachers and the State must most certainly be, ‘What are our precious children experiencing; how are they interpreting life’s events? What opinions have they formed about us as parents, friends, community and what would their experiences at school encourage them to think about themselves?’ Perhaps most important is the knowledge that they have acquired through their experiences, what have they come to understand about themselves as they assimilate events that inform their values, aspirations, beliefs, -MINDSET.
Across the country there are cries for a better education for our children. There is great concern about children who drop out of school, tired of being marginalised and experiencing, the burdensome sense of failure. Today, there are still so many children, whom, like I once did, continue to feel that they are failures because they did not pass ‘the test’.
The system continues to repeat that each child is unique but needless to say, it must do so with conviction backed by positive actions and keen celebration of the achievement of each child. Educate our children so that the doctors, masons, farmers, mechanics… lawyers all understand that while some careers attract different levels of remunerations they are all solutions to different needs. This is good education.
My experiences have taught me that the most powerful education system is one that first seeks to understand the life stories of children. Good education is when the curriculum first focuses on helping children to understand who they are and the potential that is within them. Good education must first seek to awake the giants inside of every child by stirring intrinsic motivation. It is from this point that we will unleash creativity, inventions, and articulated minds… problem solvers. Good education must seek to turn around negative mind-sets before it embarks upon the rudiments writing and impressive computations. Good education must tell our children that they are the gems of our nation and show them that we mean what we say by the schools we build and the inclusiveness of the curriculum.
The questions are, ‘Who are the educators and what are we teaching?’ If we are serious about this good education- serious about changing the face of our society, winning back our youths, then there must be a wake-up call to action for all and by all I mean parents, teachers, principals, the Ministry of education and the wider community.
The good news is that our new Minister of Education, during the National Education Consultation 2016 raised some of the issues and promised to address them- issues that have been affecting the education of our nation’s children for decades. There is therefore hope for an improved education system.
However, I take the view, that one of our major problems is lack of accountability and the ticking of boxes.