Saturday, February 24, 2018

The loss of the next generation

The education system of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago must be reformed to cater for the next generation (Generation Y and the following).
The situation is so perilous that if we do not act quickly, intelligently and structurally, and begin this discussion and implement certain changes, Trinidad and Tobago as we know it today and during the years of plenty, may have economic problems, mass migration and experience heavy recessionary periods, following our once prosperous twin-island-state economy and ways of living.
We cannot continue to educate our human capital as we are doing and did over the past decades. The education system must equip graduates with more than certification via obsolete and ineffective learning methodologies.
Education today is not any more related—or proven—on what we achieve, in terms of formal education certifications only, but on what we can do; what we can produce; and how we can help our community, our country and the world. Too often as a nation we talk and give examples of successful educational systems. The time has reached where we must act.
There is growing interest and concern, globally, in the relation prevailing between education systems and whether and how the acquisition of 21st century skills could be part of the curriculum.
These skills are valued in the labour market. With growth stagnation and unemployment soaring worldwide, educators are mandated to focus more on producing graduates with skills that feed into labour demand and support the sustainable increase of employment.
Education policy- and decision-makers must be aware of the importance of transforming the curriculum, facilitation methodologies, classroom environments, assessment practices, cultural ideologies and ensure 21st-century thinking and competencies are seamlessly served throughout our education system. The time for politics in education cannot be an issue. The heritage, prosperity and economic sustainability of the country is at stake.
The 21st century is a unique era where change happens at alarming speeds and where these changes are felt globally. From access to the Internet to apps and driverless vehicles, almost everything has felt and responded to the new technological inventions, whether we want to believe it or not.
Teaching and learning have not been spared either, and has progressed from the era of the 1960s through the 1990s and have undergone even more transformations in the 21st century, in terms of pedagogy, curriculum, knowledge, acquisition of content for all disciplines, being a lifelong learner and what type of graduates this era requires.
Unfortunately, not all educational systems, institutions and countries have made the transition and reforms or are willing to do so. Trinidad and Tobago belongs to the group which has not been reforming its education system to meet the needs of the 21st century.
Education is key and the more advanced societies and economies are facing the challenges through reform based on research, analysis and practice. What is also clear is that the most successful educational systems today have been reforming their philosophy and implementing reforms based on the changing needs of their society and globalisation.
The time for the discussion to begin is now. The time for reform is now. The time to think about our future as a nation is now. Education has a very important part to play in this venture. The five-year plan proposed by the present Government is expected to ensure:
1. The establishment of an overarching information and communications technology (ICT)-driven (“digital”) agenda in the Education Policy;
2. Training and professional development of teachers and other educators;
3. Provision of adequate and appropriate ICT infrastructure in schools;
4. Curriculum reform to include ICT-infused lesson plans for students; and
5. Establishment of an ICT Steering Committee.
These plans are excellent. The best edu­cation systems in the world possess them; the difference is that they systematically implement their reforms. We as a nation here in Trinidad and Tobago always seem to be well informed in terms of what is to be done.
The problem continues to be the will at implementation. But now is the time to alter this. As policy and decision makers, an opportunity has arrived to put nation first and prepare our next generation for a world that we know nothing about.
The least we can do is create a platform from which graduates will have the competencies to develop themselves and become life-long learners. A comprehensive plan is required and if 21st century competencies are not a part of the policy, then it is futile. Does anyone want to start the dialogue? Is anyone interested in education reform?
Steve Warner