COLUMN – Edu-fusion or confusion? –– Part 2

guestcol-rudder-1In Part 1 I looked at what was in the educational soup, so to speak, and some problems were identified and solutions offered. In Part 2, I ask: Why not?

Centre of excellence. There is talk of construction of a new secondary school. What an opportunity to really break free from creating an educational space based on introspection, and rather create one based on vision for change.

First, offer parents/guardians living in what I would call a “one-bus-ride zone” the opportunity to transfer their charges directly to the new school without taking the Common Entrance Exam; second, the same offer to those within a five-mile radius of the said school.

As for the name I would suggest it be called after its location, but with busts, plaques or other methods of recognition of all the founders of our historical and current long-standing private secondary schools, in its main entrance.

The school shall provide an opportunity to begin the creation of what I had proposed decades ago: that each secondary school becomes a centre of excellence. Why not?

For the sake of convenience let us call the school The Barbadoes.

It shall have an Olympic-size swimming pool and diving facility, as well as a 400-metre athletics track all open to the community after school hours. In addition, a playing field or playing fields suitable for multi-sport shall be provided, along with the usual other facilities.

So as not to have The Barbadoes appear to be the new poster child, as it were, plans should also be drawn to modify the other schools. Here are some thoughts for some of those schools:

St George Secondary: an equestrian and polo centre, in addition to encouraging new designs for aquaculture and green houses.

Combermere: once known for its excellence in geography, introduce cartography and surveying, including visits/hands-on in other countries; AstroTurf hockey over the way.

St Leonard’s: languages, literature and communicating arts –– school and community, overseas student exchange.

Queen’s College: architecture and tropical buildings, and furniture design –– handicapped in mind.

Fredrick Smith Secondary: community transformation –– school establishes a non-governmental organization to meet the needs of discrete communities in the area, one location at a time.

Harrison College: establish Tom Adams Library for philately and diplomacy. Upgrade science facilities. Refurbish and enclose YMCA basketball/netball court for the school and community.

The Lodge School: land, labour and liturgy –– school designs, “appropriate technology implements” for agriculture. Also host each year one or two distinguished persons who demonstrate the connection between, land, labour and a higher presence, and who encourage dispute resolution through non-violent means. Each form level will have an opportunity to interact with visitor(s) following research on a relevant topic.

There are many more topics to be allocated, namely: boatbuilding –– miniature, and sail design, windmill design, solar stills, creative cooking, and so forth.

Summary. Of course, there are probably hundreds of different ideas relating to the modification of our educational system, and I have not even addressed the fact of the declining school population. On that matter just let me say that I believe Barbados can usefully sustain a population of twice the current number.

We have to remember that in 2008 the misguided policy of sending away hundreds of people who were contributing to our economy left agriculture, nursing and construction wanting. That folly subsequently resulted in a call on the remaining population for “more babies” from a minister of Government.

The call was, however, made to a people largely accepting of a one- or two-child plan. So the question is, in ten or 15 years’ time shall we have an overgenerous school plant?

That prospect, notwithstanding, one does not know the circumstances which may somehow bring people back to our shores in large numbers. In any event, smaller school rolls should lead to better management of the schools. Discrete classrooms at all levels will be of benefit to the learning endeavour.

The reintroduction of non-formal education through a variety of youth groups led by trained and dedicated people shall assist in adding to the knowledge pie. There has to be a recognition that more and more topics cannot just be added to the regular curriculum every time there is a perceived or felt need for new knowledge.

We find, more often than not, that it is the parent(s) of “the child in need”, at one or several levels, who is not at the PTA meetings. If they are given time off to attend these meetings, businesses may want some proof that the employee did in fact go to the meeting. That is reasonable.

Parental orientation and reorientation to the school’s requirements are crucial. All must be done to encourage them to be at such functions.

Does education need a full frontal “assault”? The answer is yes . . . but one has to choose the “weapons” carefully. It cannot be “slash and burn”, but selective slicing of the new, undergirded in some ways by the old. From the time of the transistor, now to the tablet and the Internet, the one constant seems to be: learn to regurgitate.

The ruminants like the cow and sheep regurgitate to make the food more digestible, so that it helps to build up their bodies. When learners regurgitate, little is added to the body of new knowledge.

We give students computers, notebooks and now tablets to go online. The use of the Internet as a research tool is seemingly a panacea for shipping so-called education back and forth. The three-step method used: the notes and/or the questions from the teacher/professor, a good part of the answers for the student and the shipping back of the same to be corrected.

My concern is that the Internet may give answers to the questions who, what, when, where and how. To my mind, however, the student should take all of these resources, but still ask and answer the question: “Why not?”

What new is needed is to ensure that the various sources of knowledge can be fused together to deliver that “spark” of something different, the result of edu-fusion. As we look at education modification, we also need each interest groups to distill all their ideas and proposed solutions down into a “byte-sized” objective, rather than the current bite-size, for, as we know, some bites are large.

Two or three implementable suggestions are far better than 100 not having a chance simply because of the weight of numbers.

Yet there is one critical factor affecting parents, guardians, children and adult learners which we don’t always think about –– nutrition.

We teach children about better nutrition, but parents can only provide what they can afford. Local foods prepared creatively can encourage children to consume more of what is available. Surely the teachers and/or some students can identify some local cooks doing remarkable preparations which can be sampled at PTA meetings. These recipes should give parents more ideas on the use of local products.

Let us make good nutrition a valued partner in education.

In sum, can we continue to teach what the student has no interest in learning at that certain point in time, thus creating confusion of purpose, loss of hope and reduction in aspiration? Ought we to begin the process from nursery level by encouraging the child to become excited about learning?

If the answer to that question is yes, what is the first thing we need to do in our educational process? Perhaps, the first thing is to keep it simple and avoid confusing the means with the end. Why not?

(Michael Rudder, a former broadcaster, is a social commentator.)

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