What does co-operation mean to you?

In this 2018 file photo, Hillview College cricketers celebrate their Secondary Schools Cricket League title at Honeymoon Park, Tacarigua. Teamwork is one of the steps of success. -
In this 2018 file photo, Hillview College cricketers celebrate their Secondary Schools Cricket League title at Honeymoon Park, Tacarigua. Teamwork is one of the steps of success. -

In kindergarten, teachers, now usually referred to as “Auntie” rather than the “Miss,” their heads of state were brought up on: "Teach children to co-operate with each other."

That usually means to help each other, to work together to build a structure or, in the current philosophy underlying pedagogy, to co-operate as a team.

People are now hard at work to change our teaching methods to produce young people who are problem-solving technocrats and creative arts-centred producing citizens, rather than “memorise and repeat back” dogmatic little robots who will allow themselves to be programmed to obey.

There are even whole corporations set up to programme children not to think, but to pass exams by memorising answers to questions on past papers.

In the higher levels of academia and child psychology, however, the experts have pointed out: “We have seen many changes in the way school lessons and training programmes have been effectively conducted in the past few years, with on-line and AI processes driving both minor and major advances. The pedagogical methods used to help students and teachers learn new concepts and ideas have also changed to keep up with the ever-evolving processes that newer generations are experiencing.”

I am not convinced the need for those changes has been either acknowledged or implemented in our government-directed education system.

As we experience a real rejection of school and the standards they purport to teach in TT, by students prone to ignoring the old lessons being repeated with teaching methods from generations past, and the resultant violence, bullying and indiscipline on the part of those being taught reported almost daily in the press, it is not difficult to accept that – just as every adult working in any industry has had to learn over the past two years – change in teaching methods is essential.

Not only essential but urgent.

Not just children, but young people and those in tertiary education need new ways to be immersed in learning experiences, as they are now and for the past years have been brought up with different technological learning methods from previous generations – the ones our leaders and most of ourselves as adults grew up on.

If our education system doesn’t deliver learnings in the way these new generations compute information, we are not just stifling Trinis’ creative flow, and not engaging their learning brains, we are ensuring the technical and managerial future of commerce, entertainment, sport and industry – which includes the public service we must depend on – will be obsolete before it has a chance to implement the digital transformation the Honourable Prime Minister repeatedly states he is aiming at.

Primary school textbooks that parents bought at the start of the school term in September. At the time, the Education Ministry said e-books would be reintroduced in the 2022/2023 academic year. - ROGER JACOB

World experts have done the work for us, and state unequivocally that good pedagogy is about eliciting responses that demonstrate understanding. People never have learned to play cricket from only reading a book or watching a screen.

And therein is found the concept of the duty of co-operation, the third in this series of duties of mutual responsibility in the workplace.

These do not vanish as technology changes, as long as there are those who are responsible for employing and those who are responsible for actually being employed.

When there are only two people, or two teams within one entity, the “you scratch my back and I will scratch yours” is often used, and may not be not a bad way to learn the basic methodology of co-operation.

Teamwork studies show a predictable path on their way to success. If you take a step apart from your daily concerns and observe the development of teams you have been in, they probably have gone like this: Step one: A team is formed. This can be a family team, a sports team, a work team, whatever.

Try observing the process in any one of the teams you have been involved in. The choice of individuals to make up the team is crucial. If the choice is made on emotion, on passion, on favouritism, on resumés expertly written by someone else, it may work with a lot of goodwill in the very short term, but it may be shaky. Established on any one of those bases alone, usually it is not successful.

Step two, therefore, is: storming. Just as the first year of marriage or partnership or entrepreneurship is often successful, teams usually then go into the storming phase where differences in values, in technologies and in attitudes emerge (especially attitudes – that is the stickler).

This is actually healthy and essential for long-term success, but somewhere around 50 per cent of enterprises never make it past the storming phase.

If they do, they settle into number three, the performing phase. With its ups and downs, the give-and-take patterns emerge, where “a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay” standards are worked out between management and workforce, where the understanding, and, more important, the toleration and the valuing of each other’s strengths emerge, and overtake the unrealistic expectation of perfection.

When people learn that “comply and then complain” is more effective than “bawl and brawl,” the norming stage has been established.

But change is inevitable. Always. Culture advances, wars happen, politics – personal, national and legislated – interfere, climate changes and with it people’s lives. Age deteriorates methods and equipment and, with humans, wisdom does not always accompany the ageing process.

According to classic team theory, the next step is adjourning, and there is retrenchment, retiring and painful separations. So before you know it, the extra stage, and often the most challenging one, comes up like a coup d’etat and demands reform, and, willingly or unwillingly, the process must begin all over again.

This time, however, the parties have the advantage of experience They have been through it all before, and that knowledge may make them dangerously, stubbornly and powerfully unwilling to accept. Or they may graciously prepare for it and leave behind a legacy of progress, co-operation and teamwork.


"What does co-operation mean to you?"

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