Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 8th 2014 Contents Recently, the Caribbean Examina-
tions Council announced plans to
introduce five new subjects for stu-
dents writing the Caribbean
Advanced Proficiency Examination
(Cape). Among them is Entrepre-
This week, Reading, It’s Life revisits
the lessons in social entrepreneurship
founder and CEO Paula Lucie-Smith
learnt after she entered the school sys-
tem as a secondary schoolteacher. Her
experiences formed the basis of what
was to become Alta years later. Can
entrepreneurship be taught and tested?
I really like the term social entre-
What makes a social entrepreneur?
Is it that she/he is able to see an issue
that others can’t? In my first week
teaching Form Five Social Studies in
1983 at a senior comp, Michael vol-
unteered to read the textbook. The
class moaned “Doh let Michael read
Miss.” Michael read “the” and stopped
to work out the next word. Some weeks
later, another young man handed me
two pages of homework. Instead of the
answer to the questions, he had copied
the questions over and over again. This
was better than the student who drew
Pink Panthers for every assignment—
really good Pink Panthers too.
What is interesting is that my expe-
rience was in no way unique. The
teachers at the school then, and in
every year since, lament the students’
poor reading and writing skills; indeed
some say this is getting worse. And
this is the same in schools across the
country, and it’s not limited to schools.
Even in the 80s, people, when they
found out where I was working, told
me in hushed tones, “But I hear those
children can’t read.”
So if special ability to see a problem
does not make a social entrepreneur,
what does? The social entrepreneur is
the person who chooses to act when
all others around choose to do nothing.
Everyone else says, “That’s not my
When my daughters were in their
teens, I went to a parenting workshop
and the speaker said it was important
to teach children that for every action,
and inaction, there is a consequence.
That struck a chord with me—much
to the annoyance of the daughters who
thereafter had a big notice in their
rooms saying, “For every action, and
inaction, there is a consequence.”
It was the “inaction” part of the
statement that struck me. The reali-
sation that when we choose not to act,
that also has a consequence.
The school where I taught exper-
imented briefly with placing the non-
readers together in a separate class
taught by an English, a Maths and a
Social Studies teacher, all experienced.
No literacy teacher, though, and you
definitely need a literacy teacher. Why?
When you hear a teacher speak, can
you see the words? With a newspaper,
on the other hand, you see the words.
How do spoken words that you hear
transfer to a written form that you see?
You put the words in code, a phonic
code. That’s why reading is called
decoding. Learning to read is a different
skill to learning English. The school
tried a quick fix—it didn’t work. I learnt
So the school did act, but lacked the
tools to address literacy. In 2006, a
Rotary Club sponsored an Alta pro-
gramme for fourth formers at the
school. Despite positive feedback from
the students, the Ministry of Education
decided they would introduce their
own programme—still awaited. When
the school had the tools, they lacked
the will to implement. They gave in
and gave up. I learnt a lesson.
So what differentiates the successful
social entrepreneur? He/she is invested
100 per cent and will find a way to
make it work. He/she knows he/she
does not have all the answers, but
he/she is willing to put in the hard
work, endless hours, days, months and
years to find a solution—and to find
the people who can implement the
solution and come up with more solu-
tions. Even when she finds the right
tools and people, these need constant
nurturing and adding to and this
requires innovation and openness.
Next week, Reading, It’s Life looks
at the power of one.
Become a part of Alta. Volunteer,
donate, spread the word. Alta
volunteers are unpaid. Call 624-
ALTA (2582) or e-mail
email@example.com or find us on
Facebook: Alta Trinidad.
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Thursday, May 8, 2014
and choosing to act
be taught and tested?
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