Wednesday, April 22, 2009

On Education

On Education

Seeing that I finished my last post lamenting the abysmal state of our educational system, I thought it prudent to continue on this topic. Every year, we are told the average grade of the last BGCSE examinations, and every year the Ministry of Education erects smoke screens trying to fool us into believing that things are not as bad as the letter grades (D or F) seem to suggest. I call BS.

However, immediately afterwards, the question asked tends to be, "Who is to blame?" The discussion then circles around the main "stakeholders" (this may actually be too strong a term given some of these folks' involvement - or rather lack thereof - in education) - students, parents, teachers, politicians. One group blames the next, who will deny any responsibility and pass the blame on to the third group, and so on... you get the basic idea. The general assumption, however, is that each one of these groups has a genuine interest in education and in improving the status quo.

Now, my allegation is in direct contradiction to this. Nobody, neither students, nor parents, neither teachers, nor politicians have the slightest interest in improving the state of the Bahamian educational system. Maybe, and this is the kinder version, they are simply too preoccupied with other challenges life has in store for them, or they are - blissfully? - unaware of how bad things are. Or, and this may upset some, they consciously manipulate the educational system to produce generation after generation of ignoramuses!

It is my suspicion that, by and large, students and parents fit into that first category, and do not appreciate the importance of genuine education. Why, how many of today's parents would be better off if they still attended school themselves? Of course this creates problems, but one powerful force in our country prevents us from seeking new ways to address a phenomenon that has gotten worse generation after generation: organised religion. Organised religion tells us - well, our children - that they must remain abstinent, when you and I know that this is unrealistic. Organised religion does not want us teaching our children about contraception, though, because "condoms encourage promiscuity." I call BS.

However, I now have introduced what I have identified as the fifth "stakeholder" group in Bahamian education: organised religion. An unholy alliance of our clergy and our politicians do everything in their power to keep the Bahamian people down, to keep them ignorant, because a downtrodden ignorant people will never, ever hold them accountable. Our clergy preach fear, not love, and it is because of fear that the poorest in our society open their pockets Sunday after Sunday and empty them into the greedy hands of self-proclaimed evangelists. Our politicians, no matter which party, stand to benefit from an unenlightened citizenry, because no matter what the outcome of general elections may be - and let's face it, there are only two colours: red and yellow - the political caste will continue to enjoy its privileged existence, and all victimisation that follows in the wake of every election, only ever occurs at the lower levels of poorly educated, ignorant, blind followers of whichever party just lost.

So where do the teachers fit in? My estimate is that they fit in somewhere in the middle. They cannot claim to be totally oblivious to the shocking state of things, but we also see that it is a certain type of Bahamian student who goes on to become a teacher: the academic underachiever. The above-average student rarely becomes a teacher, as they would rather not put themselves into this ungrateful position with lousy pay, which undoubtedly is another reason for the poor performance of our teachers. Even if you were not the academic underachiever of which I just accused you, how could you possibly be motivated to work hard, when you get paid a starving wage? You went to college or university, like any lawyer or physician, but you get a fraction of the pay, and none of the respect.

So I have just stated that I do not see any attempts made to get us out of this dilemma, but what about the College of the Bahamas, which is headed, at rapid pace, to become the University of the Bahamas? Well, there are only two problems with that:

1. COB can hardly be considered a proper college as it is, whether you judge this by the standard of the students, the facilities, the libraries, or the academic support system - or rather lack thereof.

2. If your overall educational system is in a mess, why would you try and fix it from the top down, rather than build it from the bottom up? The Bahamas does not, at this point in time, have the student numbers to justify a national university, as nice as the general idea may be. It will take a better primary and secondary school system, as well as a generation to go through these, before a Bahamian university becomes viable.

No doubt, COB will become UOB sooner than that, as in our world, all it takes is a new corporate identity (which Karma Design is currently working on for a hefty consultancy fee, no doubt), as well as a pompous ceremony where the Minister of Education unveils the new sign. Let's hope they don't make any spelling mistakes on it.

1 comment:

  1. I say we blow everything up and start from scratch. Like you said fixing from the top down is counter productive. I also say we as the people should get together, discover solutions and then present them to the government. I think if we do that, they can be held more accountable.