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Time for real reform

There can be no doubt that numerous Barbadians still don’t place much worth on the Commission of Enquiry into the management of the Alexandra School, and perhaps it may have more to do with the route taken to the commission than anything else.

Based on the “evidence” that was made public during more than a month of hearings, some are still convinced it was not worth the money that was spent on it.

Having seen the contents of the report, we are convinced even more will be unhappy once it makes its way into the public domain and they are able to read it chapter by chapter. We suspect too that the recommendation will say much less to them than the actual wording of the various chapters.

We certainly have lots of questions — but we will raise them at a later date. Right now, we can’t wait for the matter to come up in the House of Assembly where the speakers are covered by privilege.

In the meanwhile, we take the position that if there is any real value in the money spent on the commission it will come from how policy holders in education and Government generally respond, not so much to the report, but what was said during those hearing. If it is done right the money may turn out to have been well spent after all.

Today, however, we choose to comment of the commissioner’s conclusion on how the Student Council at the Alexandra School was employed, as well as to use the opportunity to make the point that in too many instances in Barbados we fail to recognise and engage the intelligence and creativity of the developing minds in our school system.

Barbados TODAY holds the view that by now there should be some form of student government in every secondary school and tertiary level institution in Barbados that allows students to take a more active role in handling the issues that impact them daily.

For certain, prefects play a vital role in the management of discipline in our secondary schools, but too often they are restricted to the role of “hall monitor”. In developed countries students have long been part of the governance process in their schools, they have opinions that are respected, they publish school newspapers, where in the case of the United States the level of protection offered by the Supreme Court is no less than any “brand name” publication.

In Barbados we take a very different route. Children who challenge teachers, even respectfully, are still seen as “rude”. Even at our tertiary institutions, these young adults in many ways are treated no different than they would have been in pre-Common Entrance Years.

It seems that a number of our education administrators still believe that schools are about the three Rs, rather than developing the total student, and when the Education Act and Regulations are rewritten, as surely they will have to be now, student engagement in a more meaningful way must be inscribed.

Not to do this will result in children being disadvantaged for no other reason than that they have been assigned to a school that is led by someone whose thinking is always several miles behind the curve.

It’s time for real reform.

In parting, and on a different note, we invite all thinking Barbadians to ponder this recommendation from the Alexandra commissioner’s report: “The Education Regulations and the Public Service Code of Conduct should be appropriately amended to ensure that any public criticism of teachers or their work by a principal is expressly forbidden by law. In the interim, a Ministry of Education Circular to this effect should be issued to the principals of all public educational institutions.”

Scary, isn’t it?

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