More than rap on knuckles for Mr Jones
On a day when several parents, teachers and students were jumping for joy over the announcement of this year’s Common Entrance Exam results, the comments of our Minister of Education Ronald Jones were enough to jolt just about anyone into a much more sober mode of thought and behaviour.
While taking nothing away from the top performances of Yohance Lewis, Jaimie-Lynn Taitt Gibson and Kacie Corbin, or success of any of the 3,729 students who sat this year’s exam for that matter, Minister Jones could not hide his general dissatisfaction with the mathematics test results.
So concerning was the performance that the Minister of Education was of the opinion maths teachers –– not the students –– might need to go back to the classroom to be taught the rudiments of arithmetic.
Mr Jones went as far as to suggest that he might even have to go and pluck some teachers out of their retirement and bring them back into the classroom to help their contempories get up to stratch, so they could deliver mathematics more “dynamically” and “assertively” so some of the challenges which students are currently encountering would disappear over time.
On this occasion, we would have to support Minister Jones in his contention that the average score of 57.6 per cent, though marginally better than last year’s 55.4 per cent, is simply not good enough.
We also agree with his ministry’s contention that it will not be focusing its energies on reallocating students since the message needs to go out forcefully to Barbadian society that it is not the school you attend, but what you do with the education you are given.
However, this is where we part company with the goodly Minister of Education. In fact, we think he deserves more than a gentle rap on the knuckles for allowing the situation to reach the stage that it has.
As a nation, we have always had a proud record of academic achievement and have been able to stand tall globally in terms of our literary rate.
That it is all suddenly and quickly going downhill is therefore as much a failing of our administrative hierarchy as it is that of the teaching staff. One just needs to converse for a few minutes with any experienced member of our learning profession, and it is shuddering to hear the horror stories that often begin and end with the very authorities who are now conveniently turning the spotlight away from themselves.
That a group of students, by the minister’s own admission, would not have benefited from the finest instruction in mathematics is testimony that our recruitment and monitoring and evaluation systems have failed, which ultimately is a failing of the Education Ministry headed by Mr Jones.
Therefore, the re-education and re-evaluation process may need to go much deeper, as we seek to get to the bottom of our current downward spiral and back on the road to exceptional performances.
With the economy currently on a downward spiral, our nation certainly needs better; our children certainly deserve better, Minister Jones.
We would therefore wish to suggest that the entire ministry needs to be called to account and that the minister needs to get to work immediately to resolve issues in his ministry which are contributing to the current situation.
It may mean the retirement of some personnel, and as he suggested the return of others.
But by whatever means necessary, this problem is one that we must take by the scruff since, as John F. Kennedy once said, “our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education”.