Noble: The battle for our children; Covid has only exacerbated T&T’s education shortcomings

Like a passing cloud, our discussions of our children’s SEA performance have come and gone. While we anticipated there would be some learning loss due to the effects of Covid on our schools and our children’s education, the results are astonishing.

In each level of results, there has been a significant deterioration. More than half of our students achieved less than 50% in exams – unfortunately, three thousand of these students are placed in secondary schools. This placement just kicks the proverbial box down the road.

How many will survive and become citizens capable of contributing meaningfully to our country?

Pictured: The Delaford Anglican Primary School choir serenade President Paula-Mae Weekes on November 26, 2019.
(President’s Copyright Office)

The Ministry of Education did not provide detailed performance analyses. Yet it is not difficult to project that students in schools under “academic supervision,” particularly those in East Port of Spain, were the ones who continued to perform poorly.

Similarly, boys would be the main cohort of laggards. The plan to organize remedial classes during the holidays only attracted a third of the targeted pupils.


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This rate virtually guaranteed the fulfillment of the Minister of Education’s lament: “It is recognized that this vacation program will not be enough in most cases to help our students have a successful high school experience.

The components of the program (small classes and specialist teachers) are commendable and supported by best practices from larger countries, but will the execution make a difference? What happens to children when their high school experience is not successful? What will they do?

What’s the risk ? Even though one education actor has called SEL a “competition to advance in life and achieve excellence,” what can we expect from our nation when a segment of the population is condemned to a permanent state of excluded?

Photo: Young children enjoy the visit of soldiers under the auspices of President Paula-Mae Weekes.
(President’s Copyright Office)

Do we willingly accept that failure at this level of primary school sends thousands of our children to a bare existence? Do we not understand that this debacle can increase our school dropout rate? Have we considered the outcome of high school dropout rates?

According to Vigil (1988, 2003), when social conditions are harsh and social institutions such as the family (and school) fail, children are “taken in” by older, more experienced gang members and likely to live on the streets rather than in institutions. socialization process.

The Seminal Study of Willis (1977) learn to work is a valuable reminder of how strongly negative school experiences can affect the attitudes and behaviors of young people. It highlights how the structural disconnect between middle-class educational values ​​and working-class culture can create a (sub)cultural response to a school system seen as redundant for social and economic survival among some young men living in our communities. urban.

Pictured: Residents of Morvant enjoy their first taste of Pro League football as Morvant Caledonia United and San Juan Jabloteh faced off at Morvant Recreation Ground on October 16, 2016.
(Courtesy of Sean Morrison/ Wired868)

In this discussion, it is essential to understand the complexity of the situation as it applies to us. The contribution of Leventhal and Brooks-Gunn (2000), through the use of the theory of social disorganization, postulates that the structural factors of the neighborhood (poverty, residential instability, single parenthood, ethnic heterogeneity) are the first to explain behavior in the middle. community.

They are of the view that there is no single factor, but there is an accumulation that leads to positive or negative results. Hoffman (2006) supports their position. He found no conclusive evidence that family structure “causes” delinquent behavior, but that other factors, including neighborhood characteristics, were influential.

In other words, children who grow up in “socially disorganized” communities but who live in traditional two-parent households are as likely to develop delinquent behavior as those from single-parent families. This scenario is lived in the Laventillian struggles. How do we plan to support families to do better?

Pictured: Upset mum and teenage daughter.

Charles Murray’s thesis (1990) sparked the debate on the role of the family because it directly links “non-traditional” families – especially single-parent households headed by single women – to crime and violence. He speculated that single parents, especially single mothers, are not capable of raising children, especially boys. But the evidence presents a more complex picture.

As Goldson and Jamieson (2002: 91) note: The context facing many parents is therefore characterized by deep-rooted and widespread poverty, stigmatizing and unjust policing practices, and the prospect of further politically-induced impoverishment. adopted economics. Therefore, we could water down the claim that single parents cause all our problems.

But it’s not just poor urban neighborhoods that are at risk, as the lower SEA level isn’t a restricted class. Learning loss and dropouts are not temporary shocks that would be easily fixed next year. The learning process is cumulative – each step builds on the previous one.

This loss of what economists call “human capital” will translate into lower lifetime earnings at the individual level. It can also lead to a decline in overall national income, threatening our country’s competitiveness.

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The sad reality is that this performance has been a long time coming and precedes the damage inflicted by Covid. When Dr Tim Gopeesingh was our Minister of Education, the ministry conducted a pilot study with 3,000 early childhood and primary school children.

The study found that 25% of children needed little external help to succeed academically, 25% could succeed with some degree of external neurodevelopmental help, and the remaining 50% needed significantly more. assistance.

The lack of action has given rise to our recent SEA findings. Connect the dots!

In April 2016, Dr Lackram Bodoe spoke in Parliament about ADHD issues affecting 12% of our young children and suggested that a further 15% have other developmental issues. He described the impact of these issues on our children’s ability to learn.

Pictured: A young boy at school.

He cited the ADHD Society of Trinidad and Tobago, which suggested that 28% of people at St. Michael’s Home for Boys may have symptoms suggestive of ADHD. He argued that people with ADHD are more likely to join gangs and engage in risky behaviors including lying, bullying and destroying other people’s property.

Dr. Bodoe asked what was the plan for these children? When there is violence at school, connect the dots to our inaction with these children.

Covid has exacerbated the problems faced by our children. Virtual learning has lifted the veil on the economic disparity in our country.

To succeed in this remote learning environment, you needed a reliable internet connection, working tablets, and a quiet work environment, all of which are more likely to be found in high-income families.

Image: Online education has supposedly exacerbated societal inequalities.

Parents from low-income homes were less likely to work from home, leaving their children unsupervised and aimless. With its differential impact on households, the digital divide reduces the value of providing laptops unless there is a supporting framework.

With school closures, the potential interaction between students is lost, which has adverse effects on the learning ability of the poorest children.

What should we do to improve our situation? The Ministry of Education holiday program is a good idea. More school time with specialist teachers and smaller class sizes will facilitate the learning recovery process.

Evidence suggests that extra days spent in school increase test scores for poorer students. Yet the likelihood of diminishing returns means the optimal length of the post-pandemic school year is unclear.

The announced allocation of $10 million is far too timid. The problem we face is a game-changer. Barely 1% of our education budget does not scratch the surface.

Pictured: Minister for Education Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly.
(via Newsday)

Ms Anita Haynes, the Spokesperson for Ghost Education, is right to urge tests and assessments. Without monitoring data, program effectiveness cannot be assessed. It is possible to extend the scope of the program so that we can build a stable data infrastructure.

Will we do everything to save our children and our nation?