Our Readers' Opinions
November 11, 2005

Eustace must change position on Education

Editor: The issue of education has always played a major part in general elections. This time around is no different, in light of the much talked about “Education Revolution”.

The results of the December 7th elections will have great implications for our children. In the same way that teachers are asking for salary increases, parents are demanding greater reading proficiency and academic performances for their children. Today, many parents believe that Vincentian children have fallen behind children in other Caribbean countries and that illiteracy is rampant across the nation. {{more}}

This issue is just as important as collective agreements or salary increases for teachers.

Notwithstanding the crowds at political meetings, any party can win if it can meet the needs of teachers and parents.

Thus far, many teachers are withholding support from Eustace and his NDP because of his inflammatory rhetoric when he denied them the salary increases they were demanding.

Mr. Eustace is going to have to flip-flop on this one if he wants to win the teachers’ support.

I would also demand that he change his position on the “Education Revolution” Bill that his party opposed in the House.

As Mr. Eustace makes his way through the many communities, we must pose the following questions to him:

1. Will you increase teachers’ salaries?

2. Will you continue to send students to Cuba for higher education despite your backward anti-communist position?

3. How do you intend to get children to read better?

4. Do you have an educational goal set for the nation?

If the NDP president can give a favourable response to these questions then teachers and parents can support his party.

While the ULP approach puts education on the front line of its campaign this also makes it a target for criticism from some quarters. Some teachers and parents contend that the “Education Revolution” efforts are not well planned, and that children are not motivated to work hard.

Critics also say that the Ministry of Education and the Teachers’ Union are not in sync.

It’s very dangerous and wrong if teachers and the Ministry of Education can’t see eye to eye on what is best for the children. This can cause the ruling party to lose support. The “Education Revolution” should concentrate on Reading – preparing young children to read and helping children who are struggling to learn English, not just universal secondary education. The focus on educational change has to be on supporting teachers in their efforts to become more expert and reorganizing all the aspects of the educational system so that they can teach as expertly as they know how.

I would be remiss if I did not address the issue of Early Childhood Education, which remains on the backburner of both political parties. I am not sure if the NDP knows the importance of Early Childhood Education or what it is all about. The fact is that they have not addressed the issue in any formal or intelligent way. The ULP on the other hand talks a lot about Early Childhood Education but continues to drag its feet on the issue of Minimum Standards for Pre-Schools. A document from the Ministry of Education has been before Cabinet for over three years now and it has not reached Parliament as yet. Another thing is that for years Mrs. Judith Ballah (Early Childhood Education Expert) has been calling for a special Early Childhood Education Unit within the Ministry with additional staff members to effectively serve the growing number of Pre schools throughout the country, but her call has been falling on deaf ears.

It is true that this ULP Government is now giving all registered Pre-Schools a monthly Subvention, paying for Pre-school teachers to train at Vinsave, and that 10 qualified teachers are working towards University degrees in Early Childhood Education, all paid by the Government; this is good, but more can be done. If the educational system in SVG is to improve much more work needs to be done in Early Childhood Education. Research shows that an early start in life is the most important aspect of education.

Our freedom, liberation and empowerment are dependent upon us being properly educated. Politicians, please invest more in education. The party with the best approach to education deserves to win the next general elections.

Kala Saddi