THE EDITOR: The Minister of Education recently spoke of plans to make Siparia West Secondary School more vibrant. However, as genuine as he may be, this is more easily articulated than achieved.
Actively involved in education for the past 56 years, I feel qualified to speak about the nature and dynamics of education in TT. I recall how in the 1960s education in the secondary school was a scarce commodity, while in the primary school it was characterised by the struggle to obtain places in the secondary school. Discipline then was not a problem.
After 1962 trends of absenteeism, low academic performance, and indiscipline increased. This took place as education became more available. Economists tell us that as goods become more abundant on the market, prices tend to fall.
This, it seems, is what happened to the quality of education in our schools. We built many schools, trained more teachers and principals, and made available books and food to our students. Unfortunately, the returns were not favourable enough to help develop a truly outstanding society and economy.
The problem now in TT is growing unemployment, because of the gap between education and the needs of the economy. People want jobs but do not have the disposition and necessary skills to take the nation into the 21st century.
Without paying serious attention to the imperatives of culture to shape a society and schools, we went ahead to build expensive schools, increase school places, and train more teachers. However, our perspectives on education remained limited, bureaucratic, and mechanical. More critically, we paid only lip service to the concept of holistic education.
We still lack the expertise to establish schools as communities in which we should cultivate deep feelings for nation building and national development; in which teachers and principals should be versed in developing student character, ethics and shared values, a creative and productive work ethic, and social cohesion.
To arrive at where we should be, the Ministry of Education and stakeholders must review their concept of education and schooling. We have to start seeing the success of education in terms of humane and transformational leadership, competent, relevant, passionate teaching, and meaningful parent-teacher collaboration.
Unfortunately, these premier goals of education cannot be achieved overnight. They are difficult to achieve in five years. Perhaps when our political parties begin to see governance as a relay in which runners run for national hegemony rather than for party glory, we may have less crime and a citizenry more in tune with purposeful diversification, a cohesive society, and a buoyant economy.
So if we wish to develop TT, we have to focus on culture building in our schools and the long haul in policy formulation and implementation.
RAYMOND S HACKETT, Curepe