I’ll refer to a letter I wrote to the Express Woman maybe five years ago about one crucial benefit of the SEA in light of Education Minister Tim Gopeesingh’s recent comments (“SEA headache” Express March 10). I’m not as rash as I was back then, but I think one thing still holds:
“But why is Common Entrance the best system we have? Because it allows children with ability from less-than-stellar neighbourhoods to have a chance—however modest—to learn without interference at the same level that the ‘wealthy’ do.
“The poor can and do make it into the better schools in our country—even though the process is plagued with corruption and nepotism.
“Wealthy people are not affected by school zoning. They will simply pull their children out of the public school system and send them to private high schools with even more funding that the “prestige schools” ever dreamed of. This already happens all over the world, and most notably in the United States where we have a network of “prep” schools with US$40,000-a-year price tags while everybody else tries to make do with the iffy quality of schools elsewhere.
“And this is not to mention how this destroys neighbourhoods and distorts property prices as people in the public school system try to move to neighbourhoods where the schools are known for being better. Guess who wins again—the people who can afford property in better neighbourhoods.
“Trinidad and Tobago already has housing problems—it doesn’t need another one of that magnitude.”
Whatever we put in place needs to come to grips with this reality: the wealthy will always accrue the best to themselves. If they leave the public education sphere what is left will collapse. This is so because government after government has refused to invest in the public sphere in an adequate way. This is evident in healthcare, transportation and housing.
If the Minister wants better education outcomes, the entire mindset of the country with respect to governance has to change to one which places a premium on reducing inequality (Finland is a good case study). That’s a sea-change that I have no more space left to talk about.