Education funding must work for all
By his own numbers the Minister of Education has suggested that in excess of $400 million is being spent each month on education in this country, and yet in spite of this and according to ALTA (Adult Literacy Tutors Association) we still have a functional illiteracy rate of around 25 per cent for adults nationally (with some parts of the country higher than 33 per cent) which, alongside absentee or poor parenting can be attributed as a chief contributor to incubating crime and producing criminals, as it is no secret that being functionally illiterate leaves a person either under-employable or unemployable altogether.
But how can this be?
Trinidad and Tobago is ranked 77th in the world out of 132 territories for percentage of GDP (4.3 per cent) allocated to education well within the weighted global average of 4.9 per cent, so if the issue is not money then surely the question has to be asked, are we getting value for money spent from the education system as it exists? And equally important, what percentage of our total expenditure is being lost to corruption and wastage? At the end of the day positive results in this sector more than any other have the capacity to immediately impact the quality of life both of the person and the nation as a whole, so the challenge here has to be to get the most bang for the buck being spent.
I would like to offer that accountability and reporting be increased and ideally a separate body should be set up with a mandate to chart the progress and performance of schools throughout the system with a view to increasing productivity at every stage and answerable to the people through the Parliament.
Examination statistics are one way to monitor such productivity, but we should be keeping track of the performance of all schools against each other with set benchmarks for success or failure, both of which should immediately prompt intervention in the best interest of the students and their eventual achievements.
At the end of the day the redevelopment of our human capital would go a long way in right-sizing many of the ills that plague our society, and like in most instances where our nation is failing, it is the absence of hope and opportunity that is the most to blame. We do not need to reinvent the wheel here, we just need to make sure that the programmes we are funding are working in the best interest of all.
Phillip Edward Alexander