Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 1st 2016 Contents A25
Tuesday, March 1, 2016 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
In a recently published letter in which
I rubbished the idea of boot camps as
a solution to our issues of juvenile
delinquency, I also made reference to con-
tinuous assessment as a measure to curb
the incidence of school violence.
I hereby make a public appeal to the gov-
ernment to immediately set up a Centre for
Psycho-Social Assessment, linked directly
to the Ministry of Education, networking
with the Ministry of Health, and charged
with the responsibility of working with our
children from pre-school to tertiary level.
This perhaps could fall under the purview
of the Children s Authority.
The focus of this programme should be
primary healthcare where the promotion of
the physical and mental health of our chil-
dren is paramount.
The purpose here is to map the devel-
opment of our children throughout their
various stages, with the view to engage in
appropriate interventions when required.
This means that issues that threaten the
physical and mental health of our children
can be flagged and treated before they esca-
late into the kind of problems we are encoun-
This approach will include the assessment
of the living conditions, family dynamics
and other environmental factors that impact
on the psychological and social well being
of our children, which is at the core of dys-
functional behaviour in our schools.
Our children attend school with the weight
of the psycho-social problems affecting the
home; inadequate nutrition, various forms
of abuse and neglect, exposure to major
negative influences, and forced to function
in a highly structured and competitive aca-
demic environment which demands their
It is not difficult to justify consideration
of this centre as we can see our present tra-
jectory is taking us into a state of anarchy
in short order. We have become a society
like the proverbial dog chasing after its own
tail. We are reacting to a range of problems
from recession to a breakdown in our edu-
Our criminal elements function with dis-
dain as our judicial system labour under
systemic lethargy, and our jails thrive as
universities of higher criminal learning. What
is worse, our school children have fallen into
the whirlwind and are now a part of the
madness that is taking over our society.
A pro-active solution is urgently needed
if we are to save the next generation from
this mayhem. We have no shortage of trained
professionals, as every year we churn out
hundreds of social work and psychology
graduates from our universities and colleges.
Let s put them to work in the Psychosocial
Assessment Centre and give our children a
fighting chance to survive in our society.
Further we must teach our children to be
sociable; the art of living in a family, com-
munity and society.
Rekindle and improve the Health and
Family Life Education curriculum, replace
exams with assessment programmes with
a view to streaming our children into their
appropriate vocational paths and include
sports as career options.
If we remove exams we will automatically
remove the word failure from our vocabulary
as it relates to our children. This will remove
the pressure from our children and once
more make school days happy days.
Extract some of the billions allocated to
national security and invest it in this pro-
gramme for the development of our children,
and in time we will reap the benefits of a
substantial reduction, even elimination, of
crime and juvenile delinquency in our coun-
try. Incidentally, there will soon be a shortage
of policemen and soldiers to deal with the
escalating crime situation, what will we do
The chaos in our schools is a glaring reflection of our
societal principals on behaviour and standards. Educa-
tion is extremely broad and this learning process is
where by we acquire knowledge, skills, values and even
routine behaviour, however, many of the youth in
Trinidad and Tobago have not benefitted from this privi-
The truly underpinning matter is that one can be aca-
demically successful but posses little or no passion
whilst performing their jobs, as the whole idea was to
get certified so we can earn more money, not necessar-
ily to contribute to our country or to help our fellow citi-
When the concept of education is given this limited
scope, the essence is lost, so the approach must be on
developing a citizen of mental and moral quality distinc-
tive to our people.
I thought we were in a recession. But just recently I
saw the University of T&T (UTT) advertise eight (8)
staff positions in the Performing Arts department, in-
cluding a professor of trumpet. LOL.
Sorry to use text abbreviations in a letter, but there is
no English word that can capture the absurdity of that
sentiment. I understand that class sizes in UTT's per-
forming arts are around 5 -- 10 students. Does that re-
ally justify the hiring of (most likely) foreign expertise
during a major recession?
Prime Minister Keith Rowley argued during the
budget debate that offering free tertiary education was
a luxury the country could afford when the price of oil
was high, but cannot be justified now.
Well by extension good doctor, could we justify hiring
foreign academics for a handful of students pursuing a
degree that contributes solely to culture and nothing to
the economy? Why not redirect that focus and funding
to the education and engineering degrees which are
more highly populated student-wise?
INVEST IN REDUCING
Chaos in school a reflection
of our societal norms
Focus tertiary funding
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The Prime Minister made some damning state-
ments on our education system.
• society has only been concerned with certifica-
tion and not education;
• it's about getting a certificate to the point now
that they are telling you that they can give you an
MBA in six months... a lot of false papers washing
in T&T, with uneducated people;
• (we) have consistently spent the largest
chunk of our budgetary allocation on education
and education has changed the lives of every fam-
ily in the country;
• the average citizen has to look for more in edu-
cation, teachers who teach have to teach more
than what is coming in the exam.
If, for example, we were to examine the impact
of our education system on, or because of our eco-
nomic system, certain facts emerge.
It is normally believed that increases in the
number of educated people in a country drive eco-
nomic growth and its competitiveness. Instead we
find the opposite is the case locally; increases in
economic growth, driven by the foreign exchange
we earn from the energy sector drive increases in
the number of educated/certified people.
In particular the growth of the economy allowed
universal primary and secondary education and the
widespread use of GATE to fund any who qualified
for tertiary education. However, an IDB report
showed that some 79 per cent of the graduate
workforce of the region emigrates- they were un-
able to get jobs locally that meet with their train-
ing.The energy sector which is driven by foreign in-
vestment, its technology and innovation employs
only 4 per cent of the local workforce and forms
some 45 per cent of GDP. The onshore commer-
cial/industrial sector forms 35 per cent of GDP.
A study conducted by the Lok Jack Graduate
School, UWI, tells us that the majority of on-shore
entrepreneurs did not come from the certified ter-
tiary level graduate pool, but were mainly educated
at most to secondary level.
The obvious conclusion that can be gleaned
from these facts is that the on-shore economy
that utilises the foreign exchange earned by the
energy sector in the provision of the necessities
and luxuries via imports for the population, does
not require a highly educated or technologically
knowledgeable workforce to carry out its eco-
nomic- its consumerism- activities.
In other words the knowledge and innovation
that necessarily support the energy sector are pro-
vided by foreign investment- we maintain and op-
erate plant and dabble in some low level
fabrication. The on-shore sector has no need for
sophisticated knowledge or innovation to carry out
its economic mandate.
Hence, education at the higher levels, in STEM
for example, as seen, is not the driver of on-shore
economic growth; rather it is something we en-
gage in because the economy can afford it, while
many of its graduates are exported- this is a prop-
erty of a plantation economy. The brutal fact is
that the on-shore economy puts no demands on
our education system besides the conventional
3Rs and some rudimentary skills.
Diversification of the economy into exports
other than those from the energy sector depends
specifically on the acquisition of global competi-
tiveness that requires the acquisition of knowl-
edge, our ability to use it in providing exports and
innovate with it, even creating new knowledge.
Hence, an education system that provides via its
centres of excellence the knowledge and highly
skilled and specialised human resources is key to
any diversification effort we may make.
There was the hope that our education system
when left on its own would produce the centres of
excellence, the specialised human resources-
hence the diversification of the economy; this did
Etzkowitz demonstrated that there needs to be
an integrated system of inclusive institutions if
such an economic development system is to exist.
He called it the "Triple Helix" which is an amalgam
of the private sector, the government and the edu-
cation system, in particular the R&D institutions.
This system, this innovation system, provides the
fundamental and chosen knowledge to the private
sector entrepreneurs- funded in part by govern-
ment- who with their own venture capital provide
the commercial/industrial clusters that exploit the
inventions/innovations. Such an education system
has demands placed on it by the economic devel-
opment of a country.
If we are to make our education system rele-
vant to our economic development, which it is not
at the moment, we have to build our own model
of the Triple Helix- the Innovation Diamond, one
that I have introduced in this space many years
ago.The Prime Minister's complaint vis a vis soci-
ety's concern with certification as opposed to edu-
cation is a characteristic of a plantation that
values on-shore the 'mas', the costumes, the edu-
cation system provides- the certification- and not
the substance- the knowledge.
Mary K King
Role of education in the economy
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