“Education is the most powerful weapon which can be used to change the world,” Nelson Mandela. If education is to be used as a weapon of change, what are the ammunitions needed to enable us to effectively bring about positive student outcomes in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, thus putting us on the path of job creation and economic success? In the New Democratic Party (NDP), we envisage the creation of a whole new world filled with ammunitions to capture the creativity of our young people, giving opportunities to all to reach their full potential.
We must re-engineer our education system to cater to the needs of all in a technological environment. The context in which schools operate and the purpose of education are undergoing drastic and rapid changes through the action of technology. We must pilot and provide new initiatives filled with ammunitions for our people to learn and perform in pursuit of opportunities to change their circumstances, their communities, family prospects, their country and the world.
You may inquire what ammunitions are required to the re-engineering of the education system to create better opportunities and positive outcomes for all. These include: the use of technology/E-Learning in delivery of the curriculum; building of online platforms – to take our educational institutions ahead of the curve; skills training and certification/CVQ in Secondary Schools and the payment of CXC/CSEC, CCSLC and CAPE fees.
The re-engineering process must address the educational and social needs of our students as we develop appropriate measures and implement strategies to support multiple pathways to success. We could have achieved more if this Unity Labour Party administration had the proper innovative measures in place in accordance with major trends in education to bring about the desired change, especially in the use of the technology in the delivery of the curriculum, skills training and certification at secondary schools.
We would not have been scrambling now to put the appropriate measures in place. COVID-19 has exposed the shortcomings of how unprepared the country is, in implementing and utilizing digital or E-learning in schools. The Ministry of Education was caught with its ‘pants down’. Totally exposed!
We were promised technology in teaching and learning but this government has failed to deliver on its promise. One just has to look at the failed one laptop per child initiative. Teachers were not trained in the pedagogical use of the technology but had training in the general use of the computer. Also, the Ministry of Education recognized that phase 1 implemented in academic year 2010 – 2011 and phase 2 academic years 2013 – 2014 had failed.
Additionally, a significant proportion or percentage of our student population is without electronic devices, internet connections to access online education, curriculum delivery, and some do not have electricity. This government, through the Ministry of Education is scrambling trying to put things in place. We are faced with poor implementation of the initiative of one laptop per child, with limited evaluation and the failure to put adequate procedures in place to facilitate maintenance of the devices.
Since 2014, what have they done? They have failed to deliver effective use of the technology in our schools. They have not implemented any proactive strategies; they are just reacting and COVID-19 has exposed the shortcomings.
The inability to properly transition to remote or E-learning has raised issues related to access, quality and equity. Everybody must have access. We must accelerate the delivery of Information Technology in the education system. There is no doubt that the ‘Education Revolution’ has failed. It’s all Talk. We must revolutionize the ‘Education Revolution’ because it lacks the ammunitions necessary to bring about positive change.
Further, St. Vincent and the Grenadines is behind in the implementation of the Caribbean Vocational Qualification (CVQ). Since the establishment this initiative in 2007, St. Vincent and the Grenadines had only been approval to grant CVQ in 2016. It must be noted that while other CARICOM territories are offering CVQ’s at levels 1 & 2 with much success at secondary level. St. Vincent and the Grenadines has in effect been granted approval to award the CVQ to persons who pursue Technical and Vocational Education and Training programs, in and out of post-secondary institutions. This means that our students are left behind their counterparts in the region because the necessary instruments are not in place to facilitate the implementation at the secondary level. Alternatively, our students are not only left behind in the achievement of educational development and skills at home but also in the region.
The NDP recognizes the continuing problems of failure of children to complete education at all levels throughout the system. This is cognizant by the high dropout rates, the lack of suitable curricula to meet the varying abilities, aptitude and interest of secondary education and the earlier phases thereof. The ‘Revolution’ is all talk and lacks the ammunitions necessary to empower our youths. Unemployment among youths stands at 46%. The IMF stated that that the unemployment rate was highest among secondary school graduates. Undeniably, the system is failing our children.
Despite the increased access to secondary education, enough is not being done to cater to the diversity of the expanded population or the varied ability of students. Hence, the percentage of students exiting secondary education without certification, or with 5 or less CSEC subjects is too high.
To this end, the NDP will conduct a meticulous and qualitative investigation into this phenomenon and seek available evidence to bear on finding solutions to reducing school dropouts; initiate a total review of the system of secondary education to provide a system and curricula appropriate to the needs of students which allow them to maximize their individual potential while at the same time minimizing truancy and dropout rates and ensure competency based curricula linked to the CVQ framework. The NDP will make SVG work for all Vincentians.