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Dear Editor: T&T’s bureaucratic education system doesn’t reward success or punish failure

“[…] Public Education is the only industry we have in which if you do a good job, nothing good happens; and if you do a bad job nothing bad happens to you. If we do not change this fact, we will not get better schools…”

The following letter to the editor on the Trinidad and Tobago Education system was submitted by Dr Cliff Bertrand, educator, former NYC Board of Education public school administrator and national athlete:

Photo: Arima North Secondary students cheer on their football team during SSFL action against Malabar Secondary at the Arima Old Road on 4 October 2019.
(Copyright Daniel Prentice/Wired868)

From an organisational development perspective, any conversation on a road map for Education in Trinidad and Tobago has to be predicated on fundamental reforms that will involve incremental change, and, in some cases, frame-breaking change.

Public Education is the only industry we have in which if you do a good job, nothing good happens; and if you do a bad job nothing bad happens to you. If we do not change this fact, we will not get better schools.

Educational research outside Trinidad and Tobago has revealed that there is no correlation between spending on Education and how much students learn. There has to be a paradigm shift; the Education sector needs to be reinvented.

The existing model is traditional and a classic example of bureaucracy. It is centralised and rule-driven with limited input from the consumers: children, parents, teachers, the public. No one job depends on performance.

The Trinidad and Tobago system of education guarantees stability and not change.

Photo: Education Minister Anthony Garcia (left) talks to students from Morvant Laventille Secondary.

In charting the way forward, data collection must be paramount for: policy, plans, and programs. We need to craft a vision that operates through new eyes and anticipates and embraces the future of education in T&T.

In the Book of Proverbs, Solomon said: People without a vision will perish.

In the book ‘Reinventing Government’, David Osbourne and Ted Gaebler argue that the sector must be mission-driven; customer-driven and results-driven. It is about being more efficient—to change the culture of our national bureaucracy away from complacency and entitlement, toward initiative and empowerment.

The sector must be anticipatory and identifying prevention rather than cure. There must be set goals and objectives that are measurable with resultant strategies. An implementation plan must entail: timeliness, cost, responsibilities, activities, and critical success factors.

The aim is transform the sedate Ministry of Education into one that is innovative, creative, flexible, responsive and respectable. So it becomes an institution that is embracing, diverse, and classroom inclusive—facilitating students holistically, irrespective of their abilities or skills.

Photo: Minister of Education Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly.
(via Power 102)

We need a system that decentralises authority and decision; one that rewards success, reevaluates failure and maximises productivity, efficiency and effectiveness.

A system that is digitised, driven by technology in all disciplines, and takes into account innovations in teaching methods that could impact curriculum.

The intent of this column is to argue for change to begin a long overdue national discussion on how to repair the deep division in the education and political landscape.

The national education conversation we should be having is on: the full details of our school reopening plans after the pandemic; guidelines for Covid-19 behaviour; education, human behaviour and parenting; controlled distribution of laptops with the ministry as property owner; homework when absolutely necessary; what matters and what does not matter in the education system; what comes between pre-school and UWI.

The semantic legacy of the Ministry of Education:

Photo: A St Mary’s College student congratulates forward Devon Charles after their 1-0 win over St Anthony’s College in the Coca Cola North Zone Intercol final at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on 21 November 2017.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/Wired868)
  • CAC > Common Entrance
  • Common Entrance > 11+
  • 11+ > SEA
  • Cambridge > GCE
  • GCE > CXC
  • CXC > CSEC
  • HC > Advance
  • Advance > CAPE

Our discussions should transcend political and economic considerations in order to address how children are being educated, along with adequate pay for teachers, and commitment to equity and integration with TUTTA, which has over 11,000 members.

We must hold students and teacher accountable by raising the bar, employing tough and uniform standards for what is taught, measuring the results with frequent testing, and using rewards and sanctions for schools based on those scores.

Also, why charge the innocent for the mistakes of the incompetent? Pay for a review of test scores!

About Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor
Want to share your thoughts with Wired868? Email us at editor@wired868.com. Please keep your blog between 300 to 800 words and be sure to read it over first for typos and punctuation.

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One comment

  1. COVID has significantly exposed the inequalities in the system, A computer is not the solution. Remember Educational Radio? Educational TV? Now the Computer.
    What’s next? Educational robots and artificial intelligence.

    Excellent points given in the article for discussion.