Educator Dale Smart is calling for technical/vocational programmes and evening classes for school dropouts to ensure they learn skills to earn a livelihood.
Smart suggestion came as he contributed to Tuesday’s consultation on the Draft Education Policy Paper titled “A Look into the Future,” at the Victor E Bruce Financial Complex in Scarborough.
He noted plans in the draft policy to investigate the causes of students dropping out of school, given a relatively high drop out rate of 1.9 per cent at the secondary level, highest among Fifth Form male students.
Smart said based on his research on programmes in Africa, and another study on the causes of school drop outs, external and factors were identified as causes.
“Among the external factors was poverty and the internal factors you had low student achievement and just students not being interested in what is being done in the classroom,” he said.
He also referenced to a CNN report which he said stated that 75 per cent of the people who commit crimes were school drop outs, and that “when we look at the national perspective, when we had a bill passed in 2011 with this Anti-Gang law, the former AG attributed that crime is committed by those gang leaders who prey on students who were vulnerable and drop outs.”
“We also saw … predictors on whether a child would drop out or not, the national test - what happens in Standard 1 and Standard 3. When I put all of these things in the mix, one can easily see that there is a nexus between poverty, underachievement and school drop outs… when I saw that a study needs to be undertaken, I was a little bit worried,” Smart said.
He suggested as tech/voc programmes as well as evening programmes as interim measures pending the proposed investigation in the draft policy into school drop outs.
“Adopt a new policy position on the recruitment of technical/vocational teachers; there are some tech/voc people who are very skilled, has industry experience and they can bring a programme to commercialise the tech/voc subjects in the school system and students can, in the schools, make money and see the value of these subjects and understand that it can be a way out of poverty.
“As an interim measure, they can adopt the institutionalisation of an evening programme where students who are at risk, underachievers, they can have mandatory attendance where they can learn a skill that can help them develop and put them in a better economic position.”
Meanwhile, in her contribution at the consultation, President of the Tobago Region of the National Parent Teacher’s Association, Denise Nelson Frank wondered at the omission of the Association as a contributor to listed strategic goals in the policy.
“There are persons and organisations listed, I don’t know if the PTA is supposed to be subsumed under parents and caregivers or under other stakeholders,” she said as she noted that the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) as well as denominational boards were listed as stakeholders.
“I am of the belief that the PTA should be included there because it implies that the school management can go ahead, just dialoguing with parents and guardians and ignoring the importance of our PTA,” she said.