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The education solution – ensure every child blooms

By Tonia Leacock

I looked at a survey for the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) and the Concordat, and unfortunately it was not well constructed. I have just received many alerts from concerned parents, educators and professionals who do not wish to fill it out. It allows too much room for misinterpretation.

It does not even present sufficient opportunity to present the case that equitable learning allows for every child to bloom where they are planted, so that the goal of our education system should be to raise the standard of all schools and address solutions to the underlying problems.

This survey instead appeals to negative emotions instead of facts and seeks to foster division instead of solutions, hence the results will be biased, and not represent the truth. Therefore, the outcome may not be beneficial.

I am hoping therefore, that our Ministry of Education will be looking at other means to receive accurate feedback from all stakeholders about our education system. I would like to take this opportunity to do so.

St George’s College and Queen’s Royal College are prestigious schools. I attended one of their graduation ceremonies a few years ago and will never forget it.

I heard about all the opportunities that students had to represent their school and country internationally, the holistic environment in which they thrived, the tremendous academic success, as that year going forward they began to win national scholarships, and the highlight – I got to witness and experience the principal  accompanying the valedictorian on the saxophone.

This experience of a graduation ceremony affected me in so many ways (even though I have attended my own children’s since then). This is a government school, which stands heads and shoulders with denominational schools and should be the benchmark to which all government schools should strive.

I observed the dedication of the staff and the leadership qualities of the principal, who led with the students – not over them. I remember that aspect in particular, standing out in one of the speeches – the leadership roles that many of the students had.

This school created an ethos of leadership and worked hard with what they had to achieve excellence in this area. I have met many past students in my career, and they speak with the same pride, as any past student from the prestige denominational schools (sometimes more so).

This is what all of our schools need to do. The denominational schools have their ethos in their religion, the government schools need to identify their strengths and develop their ethos around it. That is the solution.

I went to a prestige school and at the end, decided to get Technical Drawing lessons (which was not on the curricula at my school) before I did my UWI engineering degree.

I went to Mucurapo Secondary (named at that time), had an excellent teacher and got my Grade 1 in one year (one class per week). I remember looking across from the drafting room and seeing all the machines for woodwork etc and thinking how much of an advantage these students would have had, with hands-on experience in the field I was going to pursue.

How many of the students at these schools have this perspective? If there is one thing I learnt from Covid, the trade industry never goes out of business, and our family’s mechanic has been smiling all the way to the bank saying, ‘Everybody needs their car fixed, Covid or no Covid!’

But more importantly, he offered for my sons (from prestigious denominational schools) to apprentice under him, highlighting the need for this knowledge. This is the part of the picture in the discussion that has been missed: the purpose of education, and the need to pass it on.

Instead of comparing institutions, should we not value what skills and talents we have been blessed with, and desire to pass it on? Isn’t that the purpose of education?

Other aspects that have not been addressed – sports, and the missing element – music. When the principal played the saxophone, it spoke on many levels. When we hear the QRC band, what message do we receive? Where is it in our other government schools? Where are they in our Music Festival?

In other countries, this is an integral part of their educational curriculum that allows not only for natural talent to develop, but an outlet for negative emotions that can be channelled into a healthy, healing artform.

Removing the Concordat is a lose-lose solution for everyone. It does not seek to raise the standard of education in our country, in fact it will have the opposite effect, as it will be much more difficult to impart religious beliefs to those who are not of the same faith, especially if they are in the majority.

If you think about it, perhaps schools with specific values-based ethos, should receive greater autonomy in the managing of their schools! Food for thought.

Education is for everyone, and everyone needs to be able to find their skill, flourish in their learning environment and be willing to pass it on.

That is true education. Each school therefore needs to identify their ethos; the denominational schools already have theirs, in their religions, which the Concordat facilitates.

The government schools need to identify their own, and work as a team to encourage each and every student to bloom wherever they are planted.