Good move, Mr. Jones

We commend Minister of Education Ronald Jones and his team of administrators at the Elsie Payne Complex for their initiative in bringing education stakeholders together today for a major “pow wow”.

It was the right and the smart thing to do, given the tensions that now exist in education generally, and in a number of our schools in particular. And coming after a period that certainly can’t be described as education’s finest moment, this move at least gives all the parties involved in the education of the nation’s children an opportunity to get the academic year started on the right foot.

No one should expect the meeting of the minds and spirits to be the panacea that from Monday morning will create perfect institutions, but at least it should have given all the parties involved the chance to hear and understand what impacts each other — and then to act like adults in arriving at solutions, or at least displaying tolerance.

And if there is anything which all education administrators and teachers in Barbados should have taken from the “evidence” that came out of the Alexandra School Enquiry, it is that the maturity that should be naturally associated with adults was often lacking.

The fact that today’s conference at the Wildey Gymnasium was an opportunity for the two unions representing teachers, the Barbados Union of Teacher and the Barbados Secondary Teachers Union, to address their members as well as their managers should also not be taken lightly. Often, if we are honest with ourselves, when we complete the post mortem on our disputes, we would admit that many of them would not have occurred if we had taken the time to hear what others had to say.

Unions are not perfect because union leaders are not perfect; and union leaders are not perfect because human beings are far from perfect. Therefore, if protagonists would often begin representing their causes with even a hint of a possibility that they may not be all-knowing, the probability of making progress would grow significantly. And this applies to principals as much as it does to trade unionists.

And while we are on the subject of imperfection, we would admonish our principals to show a little humility to parents of their students. They may not pitch marbles together, but all across Barbados, at both primary and secondary schools, it is common to hear parents reporting that principals treat them like children — I am up there and you are down there.

Each parent is as important a stakeholder in the moulding of our children as the teachers, principals and education officers, and ought to be treated as such — and not just the ones with big rides and big jobs who are in positions to make big gifts to the school when asked, or when it is strategically important to do so.

Having said all that though, we do not fail to recognise that today’s school environment can be extremely stressful on our teachers and administrators. Their daily tasks involve much more than teaching the three Rs and with so many parents falling short of their responsibilities, the overburdened teachers have so much more to do.

Now add to that a financial crisis facing the country which has left so many schools, and by extension teachers, short of the supplies they need for optimum teaching results.

That’s why talking things through today would have been so important. Now, hopefully, Alexandra School will settle, Alma Parris Secondary will not turn into another Alexandra, and reported tensions as schools such as Coleridge and Parry and Harrison College will be approached with sincerity and maturity to achieve resolution.

One Response to Good move, Mr. Jones

  1. Priscilla J September 12, 2012 at 12:11 am

    In today’s changing educational environments, if is difficult for teachers to focus on teaching the three R’s. There is so much going on in the lives of the students that the students are bringing many of these issues to school. In turn it is difficult for the students to retain the necessary information in order to be successful in schools. Many countries employ educational or school psychologists to assist teachers in understanding the psychoeducational needs of their students and to provide the necessary support to teachers and parents to alleviate some of the burden imposed on them. Educational or school psychologists are trained to provide much more targeted support than guidance counselors! Internationally, every country is faced with providing education to all students, regardless of their special needs or disabilities. Many teachers are not and were not trained to provide instruction to students with autism, ADHD, depression, learning disabilities, language disabilities, physical impairments, speech impairments, or severe aggression. As much as the ministry is holding talks with key stakeholders in education in Barbados, there may be little hope of improvements if the ministry does not consider employing additional key personnel such as educational psychologists and speech/language pathologists in the schools to help schools to better understand the problems they are facing and to determine the support that they need to have in place. I do commend the Minister for having the “pow wow” and starting the talks but the talks may be futile without developing a feasible strategic plan to assist all stakeholders in education in Barbados.


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