Every year, for decades since the formalization of our education system, in Trinidad and Tobago we disperse and simultaneously engage the nation's children at different stages of their life, history and national development. But is the education system structured to facilitate optimum human capital development? In the circumstances, the future may not only be limited to their school bags in quantity but is strongly influenced by the quality of our inputs in the productive and growth processes.
Research has shown that low quality output and unequal human capital development remains an important issue for Trinidad and Tobago as we seek to align our economic structure with the emerging requirements of a knowledge-based society. Over the years, significant investments have been made in trying to equitably increase the effectiveness of schooling. Standardized achievement tests, educational programme evaluations, teacher testing and training, and minimum competency tests for students are all thought to be useful in achieving equitable education opportunities.
Measuring education quality by student test performance has benefits. However, while this is predictive of future job market opportunities, it does not capture the range of benefits of value. In addition, attributing the portion of test performance due to schooling in contrast to education that benefits the student outside of school is not simple.
This distinction defines a necessary role not only for parents, but adults in society. Notwithstanding the known responsibility passed to grandparents by the working class, we must remain dedicated to our children, and instil from early the teachings of discipline, production, and tolerance. Increasing our emotional intelligence and sensitivity to different abilities, interest, and learning styles may necessitate different approaches, but each child must be taken into account.
Camaraderie, as opposed to conspiracy, is an innate tendency of ‘working together’, which entails a great bond between people; working together to achieve a common goal or purpose. These collective values including culture, morals and ethics, transparency and accountability, respect for authority, care and compassion for fellow men will breed a future for Trinidad and Tobago of good citizenry. Upstanding and not high-handed, over the top and not under the table, chore doers and not money launderers.
The concept of “do as I say but not as I do” will haunt the development of any society. Its failures can be reversed but necessitates finding the right mix in parenting that is involved, and at times permissive. We must not destroy and undermine children’s altruistic nature. Actually, it may do us well to learn from them. We can only teach truthfulness if we are truthful to ourselves. And while we are at it, learn to listen. Children should not be told to listen to their elders if they are not afforded the equal opportunity to speak and eventually come know that this society will not afford them an objective voice.
The outcomes of education should be assessed in the context of its agreed objectives. They are most easily expressed in terms of academic achievement. However, ways of assessing creative and emotional development as well as changes in values, attitudes and behaviour need to be properly devised. Other proxies for learner achievement and for broader social or economic gains can be used; an example is labour market success. A reliance on state transfers and social dependency programmes tell a worrying tale.
Teachers touch lives forever. Take a hand, open the mind, and touch the heart. There are only two lasting gifts that we can give to our children. One is roots, the other, wings. Our nation needs to pray for the peace of God which passeth all understanding. Pray for the lifeless changes, the children and future which our policies failed to protect.