Integrated curriculum necessary


Barbados’ education system has been the subject of praise across the Caribbean and the world for many decades. With this in mind, and in an effort to maintain the highest standards, successive Ministers of Education and other officials at the Ministry have consistently sought to encourage teaching staff to upgrade their qualifications and have systematically enhanced conditions of the physical plant and teaching equipment at several schools. One such example was the EduTech programme, the aim of which was to provide school children with laptops to familiarise them with emerging technologies. Now the focus is on early childhood education in the Government-run Maria Holder Trust nursery schools. 
The Ministry has also focused on the Common Entrance examination and its usefulness as a method to determine where children will attend secondary school. Additionally, countless educators have over the years proffered suggestions on how to improve the perceived shortcomings in the system, but so far, no significant changes have been made to the exam.
There are other areas of concern within the system that should be examined if children at both the primary and secondary levels are to reap the maximum benefits of their time spent at school.
Ideally, the school system should be designed to prepare children mentally and academically for a future that they themselves create. However, it appears that more still needs to be done for those who are having trouble coping, especially as teachers consistently strive towards excellence. Those students with higher aptitudes also need to be monitored carefully to ensure that they are handling the volume of work adequately. By pushing our students past their individual limits, there is the potential to unintentionally set children up for failure. Highly trained and skilled teachers in the system will minimise this.
Such professionals will understand that school projects should not exceed their pupils’ current capabilities by such an extent that they are unable to complete the assigned tasks. Parent participation is encouraged world-wide, but it is disturbing to hear parents complain about children at reception level having to design and make kites or papier mache animals for grading at school. There are very few children at this level with the understanding, notwithstanding the patience, required for these very technical tasks. Their parents then, wanting their children to do well and not to be embarrassed in front of their peers, take up the tasks on their behalf. This would seem to be counter-productive.
Usually, in this situation, the children have not benefited, since they might not even have assisted in the preparatory work. If this keeps happening at each stage of their development, what type of work can they be expected to produce when they finally have to do it on their own? Further, what kind of men and women will they become?
Undoubtedly, enhancements will continue to be made to the existing education system as officials establish and review the ultimate goals. The basis of a truly progressive and meaningful education system must be for children to develop analytical skills, and learn how to think and make decisions for themselves. With this knowledge, no target will be insurmountable and no obstacle permanent. The qualifications acquired at school should not only make a child smarter, but also equip him/her with the materials needed to build character and self-worth.

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