by Curlan Campbell
- ECCB Governor region needs to improve quality of students the education system turns out
- Dr Antoine said education needs to be a revamped
- Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Communication, Creativity, Citizenship and Character education are necessary soft skills
The region’s heavy reliance on CXC subjects is problematic in an ever-changing job market that requires a well-rounded dynamic workforce that can adapt to any situation.
Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) Dr Timothy Antoine made the case that the region can make a quantum leap to improve the quality of students the education system turns out. However, there needs to be a revamp in the way education is viewed.
He stated that even with the heavy focus on academics, there is still much to be desired when looking at the outcomes, especially at the CSEC level. He was referring to Grenada’s performance at CSEC results, which saw that mathematics had the lowest percentage pass rate of 34.98% declining by 8.58% from the previous year. Performance in English A also declined by 10.94% from 82.65% in 2020 to 71.71% in 2021. The percentage pass rate in 2019 was 78.28%.
“Explain at this moment you have a pass rate of 34.98% in mathematics below the regional average of 40%. How do you explain that even in the English language, we are not able to deliver at least an 80% pass rate? After years of education in this system, people are either not passing or they are coming out with very poor results, so even with the focus on academics, we are not doing as well as we should.”
Dr Antoine is now questioning whether our education system, largely shaped by our colonial past, is preparing our students for the future noting the major skills gap and mismatch of skills that currently exists within the labour force. He believes that a proper education should prepare students for life, work and citizenship, but this is yet to be fully realised for all students. The ECCB Governor outlined what he termed the 6 Cs of education, which are Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Communication, Creativity, Citizenship/Culture and Character Education/Connectivity that are necessary soft skills which alongside academic subjects are the skills for the 21st Century. He said these skills are sadly lacking in modern society. “When you look at the level of unemployment among our youth, chronic unemployment, yes we can say that there are not enough economic opportunities. That is one factor but a major factor is the lack of relevance of skills and when you look at what we are producing it is so apparent that at the same instance that you have people unemployed, you will hear people tell you that ‘I can’t find a good plumber’.”
The ECCB Governor also highlighted that country’s high annual expenditure on education versus the quality of the education provided leaves much to be a desire. Additionally, there seems to be a lack of focus on entrepreneurship and other relevant knowledge at both primary and secondary levels. A problem he suggested, must be discussed and strategised for well beyond the Ministry of Education.
He suggested that it is now imperative that places of learning start to implement an individualised approach to learning where the needs of each child are accessed and met with the required interventions to meet their unique learning styles. Another suggestion he made also included introducing digital literacy and other important subject matter like accounting and finance at the primary level and early in secondary levels instead of later on in a child’s academic life.
Mariza K James is an educator with a master’s degree in Early Childhood Education and 20 years of experience, including 7 years as an administrator. She lamented that it can be frustrating that after 20 years of doing the same thing, that has not produced the desired results, there is still the expectation to continue in the same traditional way that is clearly not working in the best interest of all students. Also speaking from an educator perspective, James pointed to the race that educators are compelled to do in order to complete a curriculum while students are being failed in the process. “The person with 5, 11 or 17 subjects when they get in the job market they are all competing on the same level, therefore, we have to be able to use the cognitive skills; and sad to say that a lot of times we are focusing on passing the test they do not have the soft skills so as to be able to accomplish a task or solve a problem, then it can’t happen because they weren’t taught how to problem solve.”
Higher Education Administrator Colin Dowe also weighed in regarding the shortfalls in our education system. He hinted that a lot of the failures are a reflection of the failure of society which once had support systems that worked in tandem with the education system. “What are the other support structures that existed in our society that might have been supportive of the education system that is now missing, and therefore causing us not to turn out the good citizen that we expect. As we go into the world of work, one of the things that are often pointed out are the soft skills, attitudes not aptitude, commitment to work, and that is not something you can get from a textbook.”
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