Mending the educational gap

There is a wide gap between high achievers and the uncertified in Barbados’ vaunted education system, and closing that space requires much voluntary work within communities by those who did well academically.

Putting forward this view, Member of Parliament for St James North, Edmund Hinkson, further contended that despite exceptional performances at the top end of the educational ladder in Barbados, the island will have slowness in its development if those at the bottom are not helped up.

“We cannot come along as a nation, we cannot move to the next level that we want  to acquire, moving on to being one of the smallest developed countries in the world where we have so large a percentage of persons lagging behind in terms of skills necessary to get through either in the world or the world of life,” he said last evening, and quoting Mahatma Ghandi added, “a society is only as strong as its weakest link”.

Hinkson voiced these opinions while speaking at the graduation ceremony for  12 young male community members who had just completed  a Visionary, Inspirational, Brilliant, Employable, Successful (VIBES) life skills training course run from March 23 to July 16.

Organised by the Clarkson Foundation, of which Hinkson is the Patron, and supported by some St James North community businesses, the programme saw a number of training sessions conducted by the National Initiative on Service Excellence (NISE) that included tours of places of interest, interview preparation, presentation preparation, and community project work.

The six-weekends of training seminars were designed to sharpen the life skills of young men in his St James North constituency.

The graduation was held at Hinkson’s 4th Avenue Lower Carlton Constituency Office.

“Those of us who have been able to achieve, to benefit on the backs of our ancestors, the fine education system that we have, those high achievers  have a duty to try and help  the others who have not been so fortunate to do as well academically well at school,” Hinkson said.

“This is what the Clarkson Foundation Inc, together with NISE is trying to achieve in this kind of programme, because we think it is a duty of those of us who are in certain positions of life in this country.

“We feel that we have a moral obligation and a national obligation not only to look after our family … but to look after the wider society as well.”

“We in Barbados are great, certainly among the best in the western world in terms of education of the high flyers,” he said but contended, “our educational system does not cater as best as it could for those who are not the high achievers. We do not learn the soft skills, of caring, of self-esteem.

“There is a gap in terms of those who may not be academic as those high-flyers who get the praise.”

Hinkson claimed that over 50 per cent of Barbadian children leave school without certification, but conceded that might be a disputed figure because Education Minister Ronald Jones recently said that the number is in the 40 per cent range.

“Whatever it is, it is too significant an amount of students both male and female who at 16 or 17 leave school without certification that is required to take them through to the next path life into adulthood,” the St James North MP argued.

Noting that the men in the programme were self-employed, underemployed or unemployed, Clarkson Foundation Chairperson and wife of the MP, Beverley Hinkson, said that this is the second VIBES programme of the non-governmental organisation, and that the aim is to fill one of the missing areas of real world preparation for young people.

“The emphasis in our traditional education system is on the hard skills, but they neglect the soft skills, the social skills needed to keep the jobs once you have the jobs, and even knowing how to present yourself when going for a job.”

NISE’s Chief Executive Officer, Kim Tudor, supported Hinkson’s call for involvement of high achievers in the community effort of giving back to those who

“We have a great education system, primary, secondary and tertiary, but there is always need for programmes like these that will help you in the workplace, and with life skills.”

“Some of these young men are coming in… having worked and so forth, but the skills, the interpersonal team building skills, these are skills that we all need throughout our lives.

 “Our programme is tailored to the needs of the particular group and range from helping you with how basic reading and basic education right through to inter-personal skills.”

Noting that some of the  trainees of this programme already have their own businesses, She said those micro business owners were specially tutored in presentation skills, “so you could  make a presentation to a person who you want to sell something to, or bring on to your business”.

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