T&T’s Education System Not Working

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‘As I always say, you can build all the big buildings and roads you want, but for a nation to be truly developed, it needs an educated and empowered citizenry’


Alicia Chamely
By Alicia Chamely

ORIGINALLY, I had planned on writing on the irony of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management using their resources to send a barrage of text messages reminding the population to “prepare” for the rainy season, when they themselves haven’t done much preparation.

I suppose they prefer to focus on the management of disasters. After all, it appears to be easier to hand out flood relief cheques than actually clean drains and dredge rivers.

Yes, this was the path for which I was going down. But, wait! What’s this in Thursday mornings news? Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley acknowledges that our education system is failing our most vulnerable students with it’s “one size” fits all approach and allowing for students to fall through the cracks and into a life of crime.

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Was that an earthquake I felt on Thursday night or a shift in the universe, because having a member of government loosely admitting government policies and institutions were failing and contributing to our escalating crime rate is an astounding thing.

For decades educational advocates have called for a change in our academic-heavy, exam-intense system that fails to cater to students who are not aiming to be doctors or lawyers, fails students with learning disabilities or other cognitive conditions, fails students who excel at the practical application of their talents rather than pen and paper and fails students who just don’t learn through the “read it in your text book then regurgitate it onto paper method.”

We have a system that discourages critical thinking and individual expression.


The only ones it benefits are those who are naturally academic or who come from homes that have the resources to shell out thousands of dollars for lessons.

It fails all of those who need it most.

The response to Rowley’s criticism of the educational system in T&T was a mixture of praise and “no ship sherlock” from both parents and educators.

T&T Unified Teachers’ Association president Martin Lum Kin (who so far is on my good side) said, “We continue to foster a colonial education system that promotes elitist ideals, which condemns some of our children to failure and which neither caters to the needs of some of our children nor the nation as a whole”

Preach Martin!

He continued to state that the current system of moving students up through the education system whether they are prepared or not, puts an immense strain on not only the student’s psyche but affects teachers as well, who do not have the training or resources to deal with children who need academic interventions.

Currently, the system is a big old mess.

After my O’Levels, I attended a Canadian school to finish my secondary education. Y’all it was night and day. Suddenly learning was fun, I wanted to go to school and I got asked what my opinion was, our grades were not totally dependent on exams, they followed a system of continuous assessment.

The Canadian educational system is one that I genuinely think we should look at if our government is serious about restructuring our education system.

A remarkable thing about the Canadian system is that they cater to differences in learning. In the secondary portion of the system, classes are provided at three different levels. Level one is for students who are not academic and benefit from practical education. They still do math and language, but at a practical life skills level. The second level is for students who choose to go to colleges or other tertiary institutions for associate degrees or other occupational courses that have more of an academic component to them. The third level is for students who plan to attending traditional universities and can handle more of a course load.

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Likewise, students are not expected to pick subjects. Throughout their academic career they are exposed to all subjects and choose to take more science classes if they want, more arts-based classes if they want, more math-based classes.

The system focuses on addressing everyone’s differences in learning unlike our system. It is not as stressful and honestly not as soul-crushing as ours.

I want to remain hopeful that our PM’s criticism of our education system is the whisper that starts the revolution, but during my research I came to realise this isn’t the first time he has condemned it. In 2016 during a national consultation in Tobago he said, “It is my view that the education system is failing as children are being put through school and not being educated.”

This was seven years ago… so perhaps we need to apply more pressure, maybe we need to continuously remind our prime minister of his dissatisfaction. Change is needed. As I always say, you can build all the big buildings and roads you want, but for a nation to be truly developed, it needs an educated and empowered citizenry.

Hopefully we won’t have to wait much longer for the change our children need.



One thought on “T&T’s Education System Not Working

    The day they made education FREE with no ACCOUNTABILITY and a right to 5 YEARS the system was DOOMED to FAIL

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