Education System Needs Reform

by William Skinner

School children of Barbados

As impossible as it is to produce a car for 2013 on a production line of 1960, so is it to produce a citizen for the new emerging world economy from an education system that has been on automatic pilot since the 1960’s. We are still describing an educational system as the building of school plants but we really need to focus on building citizens.
It is common nowadays to describe some people as brilliant without furnishing the slightest evidence. We have reached the stage of accepting mediocrity and dazzle. We have some scribes amongst us, who have mastered the art of regurgitating every idea they have read or heard somewhere else. We have fallen victim to the over worked clich├ęs but the simple truth is that when separated from all the fancy sound bites,  we are really shouting loud, writing pretty but saying absolutely nothing.
There are no real thinkers about and the few that we have, who can really make a difference, we are trying to pull down. Everybody seems to be singing for their political supper; hanging on to useless political coat tails in the hope that the next election cycle would benefit them.  Apparently we are acting the way we were educated, to be followers not thinkers.
We talk about modernizing agriculture but there is no practical agricultural program in any of our centers of education. We are hell bent on producing citizens with certificates/ diplomas which unfortunately guarantee unemployment.  They are then left to literally cry in the ears of call in radio moderators, who can only offer the exact advice that –you guessed it-guarantees unemployment.
Is it not remarkable that we don’t have one single black owned car dealership in our island yet we have an abundance of those who fool us daily that they know how the economy works? Funny thing they know how everything ought to work but they have never made anything work.
We talk about making Barbados the entrepreneur center of the Caribbean. Really. What are we teaching in primary schools about business? Okay, too young you say?  Not so. There are hundreds of elementary and high school kids all over the world, who are already millionaires via the internet. Where is the practical modern business course at the tertiary education centers? Where are the graduates and how can we identify their progress? Let’s be honest: we don’t teach our students how to succeed in business and be entrepreneurs; we teach them how to study and work for others. A big risk because they are usually asked if they have “experience” and yep -you guessed it again -they are virtually guaranteed unemployment!
Now we are going to “green” Barbados, not with green paint, but with energy products. Well let’s start at the primary schools this time. Make the kids separate the garbage ; have them convert the garbage into providing energy for some part of their school plant; do the same thing at the university; the polytechnic ;the community college and save some dollars, I think they call that foreign exchange these days.
Let us pressure the BLP/DLP into a real discourse about reforming the educational system and placing it in line with national socio-economic policy. We have given the fancy talkers and quasi- intellectuals enough time to “restructure “things. They don’t have a clue. They are only repeating obsolete economic theories, from equally obsolete text books and models. We can’t let them fool us any longer. Unless we reform education we cannot be saved form socio- economic ruin. Ironically, we survived because the model worked before. Well that model can’t work now. Reform, remodel it or perish. We just can’t produce a 2013 model on a 1960 production line. Time to get serious. Time for real reform. No more intellectual/academic vomit.

William Skinner is a commentator on Caribbean cultural and political matters.
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