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HomeOPINIONLettersOPINION | EDUCATION REVOLUTION – BOON OR BUST?

OPINION | EDUCATION REVOLUTION – BOON OR BUST?

It is interesting to hear both the Government and Opposition speak about the Education Revolution. The Prime Minister (PM), his Ministers and supporters speak highly of it, while some on the Opposition criticize it.

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This online article (https://searchlight.vc/searchlight/news/2020/12/15/two-lawyers-captured-by-ulps-policies-and-people-centred-approach/) records newly appointed senators Ashelle Morgan and Keisal Peters touting the “Education Revolution”.

So, is the Education Revolution a boon or bust? Is it a success or failure? I would first like to take a brief look at the genesis of the Education Revelation before indicating if it is a boon or bust; just for historical sake.

Brief History of the Education Revolution

First and foremost, the Education Revolution was born with a different name, by different parents and at a different time than 2001.

The strategically rebranded and politically named Education Revolution is in actuality an international initiative, named Education For All (EFA) which is geared towards improving the education of children, youths and adults across the world. It was initially started by United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) with further commitments from various agencies like United Nations, Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the World Bank.

It was re-introduced or re-affirmed in 2000, as many countries did not reach the established EFA goals for 1990.

This initiative or brainchild led by UNESCO was rebranded by the Unity Labour Party (ULP) from Education For All to Education Revolution. There is no issue with this rebranding, once credit is given to the international entities who created and directed this initiative.

Now, this is not to say that the ULP must not get praise for its part in improving Education. Just as a Minister would create the direction and policies for a particular Ministry, the international institutions developed the initiatives for St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG).

Just as a Permanent Secretary (PS) and Public Servants would follow the Minister’s direction and execute the policies, so to the Government of SVG will follow the direction of UNESCO and the World Bank and work along with them to execute their goals.

If credit is given to the Public Servants and the PS for the successful execution or implementation of some or all of the Government policies, then I believe it is fair to say that commendation must also be given to the Government of SVG for the successful execution or implementation of some of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Here is a link that speaks of the Education For All initiative along with its MDGs – https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/education/brief/education-for-all

These links also provide additional information concerning the funding and the undertaking of some of the Education projects across SVG:

https://www.worldbank.org/en/results/2013/04/23/Saint-Vincent-Grenadines-secondary-education-better-teachers-students

https://projects.worldbank.org/en/projects-operations/project-detail/P086664

Reality

In reality the Education Revolution is more boon than bust. This is not to say it is without its faults but to just highlight one (although significant) flaw of it and use that to condemn the initiative is just wrong and reeks of political bias. Partisan politics should not blind a person from objectively analyzing something, but that is the sad reality of politics in our country.

I want to look at some of the benefits of the Education Revolution, the downside of it, and I want to state what it is not.

Benefits

  1. Children of all financial backgrounds are provided a greater opportunity to get a university education due to the expansion and increase of various scholarships to facilitate more persons to post-tertiary education
  2. Greater access, focus and expansion of technical skills from the Kingstown Technical Institute (KTI), Technical College, expansion of adult literacy services, etc.
  3. Better secondary education. Now while the Government must get praise for the improvement and access in this regard, it must be noted that they were ably supported by the World Bank (under the OECS Education Development Project).

Disadvantage

Sending every child to secondary school – Making secondary education available to everyone does not mean that everyone has the capacity to go there; at that time. I look at it akin to someone applying for a loan from a bank. Loans are offered by various institutions, however, everyone does not satisfy the necessary criteria to get one or a particular one. 

There are children who cannot write or spell in SECONDARY SCHOOL. I know this as I have many teacher friends, at various levels, who can attest to this. Sometimes, we tend to forget schools not named SVG Boys Grammar School and Girls High School; because we send the “best” students there.

Did you know Grammar School had illiteracy issues in my time? I remember in form 4 or 5, in English B, that students had issues reading simple words. That was my first dose of reality concerning illiteracy in Grammar School. If that was an issue in Grammar School, then what about the other schools who do not have the “best” students and get the sort of attention as the “marquee” schools?

Now, some people might say such illiteracy does not exist. This is understandable as one may not be exposed to such cases of illiteracy. However, the reality of something does not diminish because one may not be directly exposed to it or simply refuses to believe it. I would have been in this state of denial if not for my experience in Grammar School; and also the information from my teacher friends. I cannot tell you the figure or percentage of illiteracy in each school, but I can tell you that it exists.

This is something that needs to be addressed in order for the Education Revolution to be a greater success as we are not improving a struggling child’s self-esteem when they can’t keep up due to certain learning challenges. We are negating the learning environment and opportunity for these learners to improve, if proper measures are not put in place to ameliorate this particular issue.

The Education Revolution is not…

The Education Revolution is not something that guarantees a job. It puts you in a better place where one can market themselves locally, regionally and internationally. While we would all like to get jobs upon the successful completion of our courses; we must be aware that our Government, a matter of fact, no Government can provide or has provided jobs for every citizen in their own country. The unfair allocation of jobs or positions to party affiliates is another issue, but the Education Revolution is not the cause of that (well, that can be debated, but that is beyond the scope of this piece).

Both New Democratic Party (NDP) and ULP have in their manifestos the need for remedial action to address certain shortcomings. I hope the Government urgently incorporates training for and recruitment of specialized teachers to assist in this regard. Who is to know if that neglected, overlooked and taken for granted illiterate child could have been the next top Engineer, Contractor, Electrician, Lecturer, Doctor, Lawyer, Preacher, Agriculture Expert, Agronomist, Minister or Prime Minister (PM) if proper remedial initiatives were developed and implemented?

Let us level the playing field for these students and fully maximize the benefits of the Education Revolution. If one puts partisan politics aside, we must acknowledge that the Education Revolution has a lot of pros but one major significant con, in my opinion. Let us praise the good and highlight the flaw or flaws, with an aim to maximize this educational initiative.

So, is the Educational Revolution a boon or bust? I would say it is a boon in most areas with a noticeable bust in another area. It is more positive than negative, more success than failure, more profit than loss; however, it still needs improvement as it is not perfect.

By: A Candid Observer

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