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The real meaning of education

There are several critical areas of concern today in Trinidad and Tobago. Addressing all of them would take more than one editorial.

For those involved in the business sector, there is the state of the economy and what the government is doing to assist companies and small business owners recover from the financial effects of the pandemic. Added to which comes the downturn in the global economy affected by the inane war in Ukraine. Countries, like the United Kingdom and much closer to home, our northern neighbours, the United States, are grappling with inflation. More on how government will address our declining standard of living when the annual budget is read in two weeks’ time.

Even more worrying for many is our out-of-control level of criminality and gun violence, in particular our 400 plus and counting murder toll. Daily, citizens recoil at the shootings and killings across the country.

But we must turn to the state of our education system; always crucial as it deals with our children, the future of our nation.

For the first time in two years, primary and secondary schools opened on Monday for in-person teaching. Children from kindergarten age to teens made their way to school, some dropped off by adults while other joined the working population to access public transport.

Every single one of us has, at some point, been taught in an educational institute. But there must be much more to education than book sense. Perhaps the problems assailing our society is a result of this overemphasis on academic performance at the expense of other areas of human development and growth like engendering civic responsibility, and spirituality.

The Catholic ethos regarding education is that the child must be taught not only subjects – reading, writing and Arithmetic, among others – but during the course of interacting with their educators, they must learn that they are first a child of God, called to do His will which includes being of service to others.

In April, Pope Francis spoke to Global Researchers Advancing Catholic Education Project (GRACE), a new international research volunteer project with the aim of promoting the values of Catholic education in respect of identity and dialogue.

According to the Vatican News report, Pope Francis asked primary, secondary, and university teachers to support students in their educational journey. “You cannot educate,” he added, “without walking together with the people you are educating. It is beautiful when you find educators who walk together with boys and girls.”

“The true educator,” continued Pope Francis, “is never frightened by mistakes, no: he (she) accompanies, takes them by the hand, listens, dialogues. He (she) does not get frightened and waits. This is human education: to educate ‘is this bringing forward and promoting growth, helping to grow’.”

The new academic year has begun with rumours of the introduction of Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) through the Health and Family Life Education component. Schools under the Catholic Education Board of Management will reject any aspect of the CSE being taught in their classrooms. This however does not mean efforts by its purveyors will end.

If we are to ensure that the next generations are taught not only the 3 Rs but the life-giving values and virtues, parents need to collaborate even more closely with school administrators to ensure real growth is achieved – and not the moral decay being proposed through the CSE.

Photo by Ivan Aleksic on Unsplash