By FAYAD ALI
A survey was conducted by me (during postgraduate studies) in a top-achieving school on factors responsible for students’ success.
“Parental/guardian support” was number one, “peer tutoring” and “teacher support’ came after.
Later the students were asked to explain why this was so.
“Does Mom explain quantum mechanics and does Dad simplify the Maclaurin’s Expansion?”“No Sir. But at 10 p.m. when we are studying, a hot cup of tea is brought to us and a sandwich if we are hungry, not that we can’t do it ourselves. Our parents remind us, (not tell us) to complete our homework, SBAs, IA assignments and school projects.
They make us recognise there is a Supreme Being who governs all and to whom we shall eventually answer.
We do not have to win a scholarship, only do our best. We are made to realise that in our hand and in our head therein lies boundless potential. Admittedly there are always monumental underlying parameters that threaten to retard our progress, but the choice is ours always.Currently, it is estimated that up to 30% of students, the majority being boys, (Michael Kallon, UWI School of Education) do not complete school.
Over 60% percent of the jobs being created in our Caribbean need the minimum of secondary school education.
There are some things that poor and caring Sir and dear sad and sympathetic Miss just can’t provide.
Parenting is not wholly granny’s job or aunty’s responsibility, but just a part. It is mostly ours. Yes, that of dear father and mother or appointed guardian and not solely that of Sir or Miss.
I agree that even amidst the noble profession there are ones who leave much to be desired. The child always pays very dearly for wasted time.
Then too, all of our children, regardless of potential, ability, performance, affinities, aspirations, wishes, dreams and talents, are subjected to the same curriculum.
Each one of us is offered the same opportunity with respect to attaining an education.
But factually, our starting point is not the same, the pathway is not the same and the rate at which we can run is not the same.
We are expected to reach the finish line at the same time, a definitely rather “ambitious prospect” to say the least.
For decades we have been trying to educate the Trinbagonian child enough; so that they may become at least comparable to those of the superior nations.
The Asian countries are repeatedly in the top ten out of 65 participating countries tested in the various disciplines.
The USA, who we worship placed 37th in mathematics and science (OECD, 2012) and our nation placed 52nd out of 65 countries when we participated in the 2009 International Assessment (OECD-2009). These stats haven’t changed significantly over the years.
Performing nations are nations where mothers and fathers value education, as much as we value gossip and bacchanal.
From all these lesser achieving institutions that surround us, where millions of dollars continue to be pumped with unbounded optimism but with no significant change, the teachers are not all delinquent.
They suffer from burnout, are tired, overworked and frustrated. But mostly, they are fed-up of taking all the blame. We refuse to teach our children about the virtues of honesty, hard-work, manners, personal ambitions, gratitude, empathy, responsibility, integrity, self-respect and the value of an education. We must no longer blame unattainable education entirely on poverty. Maybe we should begin to look at neglect from 3 p.m. until the return to a free breakfast at 8 a.m. on the next morning.
The Government has sanctioned an educational comfort zone. They still, despite the harsh economic times, provide books and meals and travel to and from school, counselling and financial aid. There are fewer excuses that warrant confrontation.
Parents, can we answer with fair accuracy, just where our children are at any given point in time?
Why do we accept our son’s feeble explanation that the little basketball game with his friends after school, caused him to arrive home at 10 o’clock?
Did we visit the school when our child’s report showed a notable decline?
Did we attend the PTA meeting and made a contribution of sorts?
Do we know if our child’s homework was done?
Did we see the geometry set missing from our child’s bag and replaced by a vanity mirror or a knife?What more do we expect from the educators?
Check on student punctuality and absence which averages 27% daily. Do we know or care?
When Sir or Miss asks to see us, do we go? And, if we do, is it with an “attitude”?
Do we have our child understand the importance of obeying the rules that are set out by their school and the Ministry of Education, the value of wearing the correct uniform, the importance of being in the classroom when a lesson is taught?The character building of the child starts with us – parents or guardians at home and it commences from age zero.
Being a “disciplinarian” is not about beating up our child; it is about caring for our child’s future. There must also be a hug and a loving arm and a lap to sit on when needed. These are not just missing ingredients; they are actually essentials in the recipe for making successful students and eventually global citizens.Leadership, as well as an important ingredient in building a nation and school leadership, is critical in this respect.
to inspire. The principal must be forceful enough to instill positive change, to alter the school’s model where it fails and endorse the parts that bear fruit.
Leading by example is second to no other type of leadership. There is not a single successful institution that is not guided by an intelligent and visionary leader.
Our system is not perfect, but we need only to look in the reflective mirror to find most answers to the failings of our students and stop looking for excuses. Face the facts and stop blaming everything on slavery and indentureship. When we fail to do so, we fix absolutely nothing.
Just be mindful that we are our nation and our nation is us.
(Fayad Ali is a former Dean at Naparima College in San Fernando, Trinidad, an eminent Mathematics teacher and author)