The New Democratic Party (NDP) congratulates all the students who were successful in their CSEC and CAPE examinations, and extends best wishes to those students who have begun the 2022 – 2023 academic year. Once again, there has been numerous problems at the beginning of the school year. This can only be described as a lack of effective planning by the Ministry of Education.
The most anticipated day for students is to return to school on the first day at the beginning of an academic year. This anticipation was dampened when some students turned up for classes on Monday 5th September, and had to return home because their schools were not ready for classes, although they were given the assurance by the Minister of Education that everything was in place for a grand reopening. Instead, some students and teachers were greeted with the scent of paint, roofs being repaired, pieces of boards were seen in classrooms and along walkways of some schools.
The question that is being asked, why would the government wait until the end of the long summer vacation to begin repairs of schools?
The school year has also started with some of our best teachers out of the classroom because of the government’s draconian vaccine mandate. If we are serious about quality education then quality teachers must deliver the curriculum. The NDP is reiterating its call for the government to reinstate the teachers and the other public sector workers. Employing forty (40) additional relief teachers will not solve the problem. The Minister of Education, who is a past teacher and a former vocal member of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Techers Union, should be ashamed of what his government has done to his brothers and sisters.
Further, we have a high repetition and dropout rate. The high rates of repetition and dropouts are concerns for us in the NDP. In comparison to the other countries in the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), St. Vincent and the Grenadines not only has the highest repeaters and dropouts at the primary and secondary levels, but the numbers are far higher than that of the other islands of the OECS. For instance, for the period 2015 to 2019, the total of dropouts for St. Vincent and the Grenadines at the secondary level was one thousand, one hundred and forty two (1,142).
Recently, we heard the Prime Minister repeating that there aren’t enough skilled workers in the country. If that is the case, it is a colossal failure on Gonsalves’ ‘Education Revolution’. Or, is the government preparing the way to bring foreign workers into the country. The Prime Minister further encouraged persons to get their Caribbean Vocational Qualifications (CVQs), and said that he would place a greater emphasis on Technical and Vocational Education. After twenty one (21) years in government, Gonsalves has now seen it fit to encourage persons to get CVQs. Is the Prime Minister serious? Prime Minister Gonsalves, you are fifteen (15) years behind.
The following excerpt is from the Honourable Terrance Ollivierre, the shadow Minister of Education as he dealt with government’s failure to implement CVQs: “St. Vincent and the Grenadines is behind in the implementation of the Caribbean Vocational Qualifications (CVQs). Since the establishment of this initiative in 2007, St. Vincent and the Grenadines had only begun to grant CVQs in 2016. It must be noted that other CARICOM territories are offering CVQ’s at levels 1 & 2 with much success at secondary level. This means that our students are left behind their counterparts in the region because the necessary instruments are not in place to facilitate the implementation at the secondary level. Alternatively, our students are not only left behind in the achievement of educational development and skills at home, but also in the region.”
Despite the increased access to secondary education, enough is not being done to cater to the diversity of the expanded population or the varied ability of students.
The Way Forward
In the NDP, we envisage the creation of a whole new world filled with ammunitions to capture the creativity of our young people, giving opportunities to all to reach their full potential. The way forward is to re-engineer our education system. We must re-engineer our education system to cater to the needs of all in a technological environment. The context in which schools operate and the purpose of education are undergoing drastic and rapid changes through the action of technology. We must pilot and provide new initiatives filled with ammunitions for our people to learn and perform, in pursuit of opportunities to change their circumstances, their communities, family prospects, their country and the world.
You may inquire what ammunitions are required for the re-engineering of the education system to create better opportunities and positive outcomes for all. These include: the use of technology-Learning in delivery of the curriculum, building of online platforms to take our educational institutions ahead of the curve, skills training and certification, CVQs in Secondary Schools and the payment of CSEC, CCSLC and CAPE fees.
The re-engineering process must address the educational and social needs of our students as we develop appropriate measures and implement strategies to support multiple pathways to success. We could have achieved more if this ULP administration had the proper innovative measures in place, in accordance with major trends in education, to bring about the desired change, especially in the use of the technology in the delivery of the curriculum, skills training and certification at secondary schools.
The NDP will also improve the quality of primary and secondary education, with a greater emphasis on the allocation of resources to primary education. To accomplish this, there is need for improvement in teaching quality and facilities, relevance of curriculum, learning materials and the introduction of continuous assessment systems and remedial programmes for slow learners. The NDP is committed to provide quality education.