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Our children and education – Is it about them, or us?

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We are at the end of the 2017/18 school year, a time of triumphs, celebrations but also disappointments. It is a time when, examinations having been endured, results are all that seem to matter.

Yet, at the end of it all, it is the moving on, “where do we go from here?”, that counts. The level of the performances of our children and students in the exams influences to a great deal the expectations of those around you.

Congratulations are in order to the top achievers and to all those who have been successful in their examinations. It has taken a lot of hard grind, and sacrifice, for them to succeed. In my youth, a mere pass at the Entrance Exams, (before Common Entrance was introduced), was enough to make not only a family, but a whole community full with pride. By extension, if you obtained two or three GCE passes, you could be almost guaranteed of some form of employment.

That was then, but now is now. The massive turn out produced by our Education Revolution is such that not even a University degree, be it for the traditional revered “doctor” or “lawyer” is enough to guarantee employment. The competition for placements is as intense as vying to win FIFA’s World Cup of football. The rapid transition is not easy to comprehend and leads to all sorts of erroneous conclusions.

Is it not time therefore, for us to sit back and take stock of the new situation? Are we taking examinations, at very basic levels, as unreliable measures of the potential and possibilities of our children? If a child does not measure up to our expectations, whether at the primary, secondary or university level, does it make that child a failure? What should be our responses?

Should we, for those who succeed and excel, forget that, notwithstanding his/her individual expectations, it is but another rung of a ladder and that in the final analysis, it is your contribution to the development of our society which matters most? Why then are we exerting such unnecessary pressure on our youth, not just to do the best they can, but to meet the weight of our expectations?
When they do well, is it about them or us? From pre-school graduations right up to university level, the glory seems to be heaped more on the teachers, schools, parents, even Ministry of Education and politicians. As the legendary calypso bard Black Stalin tells us, it is as though “dey put the sponsor name in front and my band name behind.”

That fulfilment of the goals of our egos can have dangerous consequence.

It leads to parents, who feel that their talented children only have worth if they excel in academics, for them to believe, falsely, that any failure to meet with expectations at a young level condemns children to believing that they are “lesser” than others. For all the modern evidence to the contrary, we still believe, by and large, that the colonial concepts of doctor and lawyer, count for more than all others.

We are yet to fully recognize and understand the phenomenal achievements of P.H.Veira, Sylvia Wilson/da Silva, C.K. Greaves, Das Da Silva, Hubert Hinds and others in the field of business, yet to imbibe their entrepreneurial spirit against all odds. Similarly, the achievements of our tradesmen who have literally built, not only our country, but several others in the Caribbean as well, our nurses, engineers, fisherfolk, cooks and chefs as well, have paled in our comparison with the academic achievers.

Those false measurements and our selfish pursuits of them are pressuring our children, leading them and the society down the wrong road, heaping false expectations on their shoulders and if they do not measure up, condemning them to the roads to frustration, crime, even mental disorder.
Is it about them or us? Time to reflect.

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.

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