Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Education a victim of politics


Mark Fraser

THE report that a secondary school student was killed on Monday in a dispute over a girl reminded me of what I wrote on single-sex schools in March 2010, based on my continuous educational research, and my continued visits to scores of schools in Trinidad. I raised questions on the main source of violence and stabbings in secondary schools and suggested that these incidents quite often resulted from “girls fighting over boys and boys fighting over girls”.

At that time, I congratulated the Ministry of Education (MOE) for its introduction of a pilot single-sex school programme.  However, with a change in government, this important project was neglected, and later abandoned; sacrificed on the altar of our political culture, where a new administration must automatically reject every initiative of the previous regime, regardless of the project’s importance in improving the school’s learning environments.

T&T seems to disregard education as a professional field, where a substantial body of knowledge is increased each day from the thousands of ongoing research projects. Instead we take decisions based on caprice, hidden agendas and whims and fancies of “personal advisers” who have never understood research articles in educational journals.

This disregard for the education profession becomes explicit when we consider the Teaching Service Commission, that body that controls entry into teaching and matters of discipline. We find that very rarely educational professionals with backgrounds in educational research and with educational qualifications (not honorary doctorates) are included. Instead, this commission has comprised people from other areas such as lawyers and human resource managers, who have little understanding of education as a profession.

Our political culture has created a way to reward party supporters and past campaign managers by appointments of “advisers” who have very little professional knowledge of education. For example visit http://www.moe.gov.tt/spotlightPDFs/MOE_Strategy_Report_Nov_2010.pdf and you will see that the MOE’s chief consultant who produced the MOE’s final strategy report is a retired head of an auditing firm. 

It is small wonder that the report is riddled with false assumptions and inaccuracies that will get it a failing grade in any school of education.

To sum up, I contend that politicians have used the education system as a milch cow to serve narrow political interests and they have excluded the voices of local researchers, while bending over to accommodate foreign charlatans. Within this context many teachers have lost motivation, children receive sub-standard education, and violence and stabbings will continue.

David Subran