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Tuesday 20 August 2019
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Commentary

Challenges in education

Challenges. Among its meaning is “a demanding or difficult task.” Our education system needs to be scientifically and periodically reviewed if it has to carry out its mission and promise to the society.

This is a demanding task, not fit for public-relations contests or denial. One of the early promises of the education system which must be emphasised in our present circumstances stated: “To produce citizens who are intellectually, morally and emotionally fitted to respond adequately and productively to the varied challenges of life in a multi-racial developing country…particularly the challenges of science and technology.” (Education Plan, 1968-83)

The important question is, do we have reliable and comparable data now to see how far these objectives have been fulfilled, or how far apart we are? I recall this promise as I examined how other countries responsibly manage and measure their education systems – for instance Norway, England, Switzerland, Germany. When I saw how these countries managed with data transparently collected and responsibly shared with the community, facilitating school evaluation, accountability, etc, I merely shook my head. Prof Theodore Lewis has provided several examples suggesting how we too could be as progressive. Taxpayers are right to ask about the performance of the $6 billion (2019 budget) Ministry of Education. How is our educational system evaluated?

Anyhow, ten years after the 1983 Education Report, and seeing that the education system faced growing management, curriculum, indiscipline and inequity challenges, another Ministry of Education plan again promised: “That every child has an inherent right to an education which will enhance the development of maximum capability regardless of gender, ethnic, economic, social or religious background.” (Task Force, 1993).

Students of Pinehaven SDA Primary School, La Resource, D'Abadie hug after receiving their SEA results last Friday.
PHOTO BY ANGELO MARCELLE

Is the evidence for this from the SEA? Do we have reliable data to see how far these objectives have been fulfilled, or how far we are? And when I say “reliable” data I mean professionally and independently researched. Recognising the data gap in 1993, the report added: “Decisions on education must be informed by empirical evidence. To date in TT, we have been relatively strong on philosophical orientation…but relatively weak on the use of empirical evidence.”

This lack of reliable data for planning and development in this country has been sternly noted by several international agencies (IDB, World Bank, IMF, etc) This 1993 report and subsequent ones, noting the “more talk than reliable data” syndrome, suggested several remedies. (1) Before making public announcements and inserting an intervention into a school, do a proficient “pilot test” first. (2) Transparently measure. then evaluate each intervention. using baseline data from one period to another. No data is really “too old” for trend analysis.

You see, the challenges of equality of opportunity and social inequity persistently keep large groups of students stranded in the same place rather than moving upwards.

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