Roman Catholic Archbishop Joseph Harris says a "very unofficial poll" carried out by the Church has shown many criminal gang members are "functionally illiterate".
The Archbishop made the comment after the National Awards ceremony at Queen's Hall, St Ann's, on Friday evening.
He was awarded the nation's second highest honour, the Chaconia Medal (Gold).
While speaking with reporters, Harris said he accepted the National Award "because of the church".
"I think that over the past 50 years, the Catholic Church has done quite a lot for the country, in education, in social work," he said.
Harris then focused on the need for better education when asked about the role of religion in winning the war on crime.
"I don't know whether it is a problem of religion. I think, far more, it's a problem of education," Harris said.
He said Trinidad and Tobago has an education system in which "too many people leave it with a huge inferiority complex".
"A very unofficial poll that we did told us that a lot of the members of the gangs are functionally illiterate. They can't read or write. We have to find ways to stop that.
"We have to build an education system in which people leave school, finish school, knowing their gifts and their talents, feeling good about themselves," Harris said.
The Catholic Church operates several primary and secondary schools but the Archbishop made no specific mention of those.
However, he called for a change in the national school syllabus.
"We have to teach critical thinking. We have to start teaching philosophy in schools. At the moment, because there is that total lack of philosophy, we live and work on emotion.
"So somebody passes, by accident, hits you or something; you get annoyed and you react. People do not stop and think critically about what they do or what they should do," Harris said.
Assistant Police Commissioner Fitzroy Frederick, recipient of the Public Service Medal of me- rit (Gold), agreed with the Archbishop.
Frederick, who is on pre-retirement leave, told reporters crime is a "social construct".
"So it (the solution) probably needs to be re-education in terms of thinking critically, given all the things, the distractions, the youth have to treat with. So once that we can ensure, put programmes and so on that they can think critically, I think we can move forward," Frederick said.
And as Frederick is preparing to move on from his 41-year-long career in law enforcement, he said the National Award he received showed recognition for the work being carried out by the entire Police Service.
He was asked if receiving the National Award was a bitter-sweet moment as the police continue to face a difficult challenge in curbing the homicide rate.
"In response to your question—bitter-sweet, I said, yes, but I think the men and woman that are left behind can carry out the job. Police have a lot of resilience, so they can rise to the occasion in terms of reducing crime and criminality to some manageable level," Frederick said.
He said he's hoping the police will soon receive a long-awaited pay raise. • See Page 7