National scholarship winner, teacher and author Paula Lucie-Smith on Friday blamed politics for eroding the integrity and quality of the nation’s institutions.
Lucie-Smith made the comment while delivering an address to University of West Indies (UWI) graduates of the Faculty of Social Sciences at UWI Spec, St Augustine, which was attended by university’s principal Prof Brian Copeland and its vice-chancellor Prof Sir Hillary Beckles.
Moments after being conferred the degree of Doctor of Law, honoris causa, by UWI’s chancellor Robert Bermudez, Lucie-Smith told parents, guests and graduants that having taught at a senior comprehensive school, she left for one reason — decisions governed by votes at the next election.
“Politics invaded to erode the integrity and quality of the nation’s institution and made our efforts futile.”
She cited one example of the erosion with the abolition of the Common Entrance examination which was announced by then prime minister Basdeo Panday in a bid put an end to the children’s trauma.
“Politics was the driver of universal secondary education,” she said.
In 2000, Lucie-Smith, who is the founder of the Adult Literacy Tutors Association (ALTA), said the Ministry of Education met and asked her what ALTA could offer students who were not literate and entering the secondary school system.
Although she submitted a proposal, she said no word came.
Some 18 years later, Lucie-Smith said students continue to enter secondary schools barely able to read and exit five years later with the same low literacy, but now with an entrenched feeling of being outside of society.
“Anger pervades our secondary schools, anger wrought by extreme frustration. What did the group of teens who set fire to their school have in common? Not one of them could read.”
She said without provision for those with no aptitude for literacy “universal secondary education is destroying trust in our schools and eroding belief in the value of education.”
Lucie-Smith questioned why didn’t we “say no” when a politician dictated our education policy.
In the early 1970s, Lucie-Smith said Finland had an under-performing education system.
“Then took education out of politics. They embarked on a long-term policy to develop a professional body of educators and then turned over the decisions to the teachers.”
Today, she said, Finland is rated among the highest in the world in innovation, entrepreneur and creativity.
“Isn’t it time we took politics out of education? And out of other areas? Since independence, successive governments have taught us that we can neither trust their vision nor their purpose. Our politicians fail to engage people.”