The CSEC and CAPE exams have begun and the New Democratic Party (NDP) extends best wishes and good luck to all students who are sitting the exams. Although COVID- 19 pandemic has disrupted the teaching/learning process, we believe that the teachers have done their best and students are well prepared for the exams. However, we continue to highlight the challenges that are confronting the education system in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and how we will solve them.
The much-vaunted ‘Education Revolution’ by the Unity Labour Party (ULP) is simply an empty slogan. The ULP government has failed to implement an effective ICT programme to the schools’ curriculum, our drop our rate is the highest in the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States and our education system does not provide for the developmental needs of the country.
Speaking at the NDP’s virtual public meeting, the president of the NDP’s Women’s Arm, made the following observation of the education system: “The government boasts of an ‘Education Revolution’, yet so many of our students are falling through the cracks. There are poor working conditions in the schools, high failure rates in illiteracy and numeracy, inconsistent methods of assessing the teaching/learning process and numerous behavioral problems exist in the system.
We need sustainable remedial programmes for our students. As a former principal, I often become emotional, when I see students reach Grade 6 and can’t read. My brothers and sisters, do you know what it is like when you can’t read? I see people cry long tears already when they can’t even make out their own names on a piece of paper. Ignorance is definitely not bliss! We can’t allow the system to fail our children. The future of this country depends on the structures we put in place today to facilitate the success of the next generation.
They talk about the availability of scholarships and training but unfortunately when many of our students return from universities, they cannot find jobs. Many become very hopeless as they watch others unfairly filling positions that they are not qualified for, all because of political affiliation. Could you imagine that? An ‘Education Revolution’ can only be good when it helps to strengthen all citizens in society. When all Vincentians can ‘breathe again’ and when equity and equality prevail across the education system.
We hear talks about adopting a classroom project where 347 primary school students are expected to receive cheques and book vouchers valued at $600. We also hear about PRYME monies sharing away. Some of the persons who receive monies most people believe they do not qualify. This is so unjust! Why not put those monies where the pain is? Could all of this compensate for students who are unable to pay for all their CSEC subjects or those who have become frustrated and have ended up in the Mental Asylum? An NDP government would ensure that no student is left behind. All their CSEC subjects would be paid for.
The idea of technological integration to the schools’ Curriculum is an NDP initiative stolen by the ULP. They took it and ran with it but lo and behold, their style of implementation failed. It just couldn’t remedy the social factors hindering our teachers and students from performing at their best.
Why is it that all secondary schools in this country are not equipped with Science labs and all students are not being given a chance to do foreign languages? Why is it that specialized teachers are not properly allocated across the secondary schools? Why are most of the learning resource centers not opened after working hours to accommodate adults who want to develop skills? All these burning issues would be rectified under an NDP government. An NDP government would ensure that the Ministry of Education develops a philosophy for Optimum Education in this country. And our teachers, students and parents would be properly trained to execute required tasks including E-learning.”
We do not have a system for assessing students in order to identify those who may be falling behind their peers; and we do not have a targeted programme of remedial education for children who are so identified. In addition, many of our classes are not small enough for teachers to be able to give personalized attention to those falling behind. This means that too many of our students continue to fail and to reap the full benefits of the education system. When we have a 16-year-old still in Form 3 of a secondary school, something went seriously wrong with that student’s primary and/or preschool education, a problem that it is difficult to correct at the secondary level.
We will ensure that each child who enters Kindergarten is professionally assessed in order to facilitate early diagnosis of issues which may affect the student’s learning. Similar and appropriate tests will be conducted at strategic Grades in order to monitor students’ progress.
Further, relevant remedial programmes will be implemented in order to address the problems of literacy and numeracy before students enter secondary school. In order to implement these two key programmes we will begin by reviewing the past training of all our educators to see if we have sufficient qualified people to start this assessment programme and remedial education. If we do not have these skills, we shall seek to develop, with the assistance of aid donors, a programme of training in assessment and in remedial education for teachers with the initial aim of having at least one teacher with each of these skills in every school. This cadre of trained teachers will then be employed to train others.
We reiterate that 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. The NDP will re-engineer our education system to cater for the needs of all our students.