Addressing student shortfalls

Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly. -
Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly. -

The Education Ministry's follow-through on its efforts to provide remedial learning for students emerging from the fractured education experience of the pandemic is a welcome effort at addressing a serious problem.

Following vacation classes, the ministry has announced a programme for 80 primary and 26 secondary schools across an impressive range of interventions.

It's not an issue for Trinidad and Tobago alone. School closures and the rush to implement remote education were a global problem.

A November 2020 report by Swiss academic and research institution ACAPS anticipated that as many as 24 million children, living on a financial borderline, were at risk of dropping out of school entirely.

As many as 370 million children who depended on free school meals were also affected.

The supportive social roles of schools as safe spaces for children in difficult circumstances were discontinued in many countries for more than a year.

These challenges were particularly intense for younger children – preschoolers, primary and secondary school students – who were removed from school environments and forcibly introduced to a new learning paradigm.

There was no time to evaluate which students were equipped for this new experience, far less understand which children couldn't adapt to learning techniques that were being tested on a day-to-day basis.

Many governments committed to ensuring that education shortfalls would be addressed after pandemic restrictions were lifted.

The future of our children depends on how well the Education Ministry and the TT school system manage those students who have been fallen behind.

It's critical that a measured and iterative approach be taken to this remediation exercise, with continuous monitoring of the value of techniques and approaches.

In May 2021, the UN Human Rights Watch published a 125-page report –Years don't wait for them – which outlined the global challenges and offered a range of strategies for addressing anticipated education shortfalls.

Among those are prompts to accommodate students who are pregnant, parenting or living with disabilities with respect and acceptance.

The remediation programme addresses one aspect of those recommendations, the provision of free tutoring for students, but more can be done to identify students with specific challenges that limit their engagement with the formal education system and adapt to meet their needs.

Education Minister Nyan Gadsby-Dolly is correct to note that doing something is better than doing nothing, but she must also acknowledge that doing something well is infinitely better than doing it poorly.

The Education Ministry must liaise continuously with the stakeholders it seeks to serve, the teachers it hopes to train, the students it hopes to educate and the teams of support staff it intends to seed into the chosen schools to ensure that the nation's children are taught and supported effectively.


"Addressing student shortfalls"

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