New Year greetings and blessings to all.
During her address at the President’s Medal Awards Ceremony on January 8, Her Excellency Paula-Mae Weekes expressed the need to rethink the education system in T&T.
I have taken the liberty to refer to a core issue that the President raised during her speech because her central interest resonated with mine.
She said, "If we are honest, we would admit that, by and large, the curricula are not delivering the quality individual that we need to build this nation. I am not, on this occasion, speaking about the mismatch between subjects offered and the requirements for sustainable development, but rather about the absence of a built-in component to incubate and inculcate the characteristics necessary for good citizenship."
And she announced the following, "For six years, I taught the course "Ethics, Rights, and Responsibilities of the Legal Profession". I was disappointed to find that a significant percentage of the students, among them scholarship winners and other high achievers were lazy and dishonest, had a sense of entitlement, and wanted maximum return for minimum effort. It was clear that these failings of character had been carried over from their earlier interaction with the education system."
According to one newspaper report, she reminded her audience about the saying "Don’t shoot the messenger" and she added, "Today I say if shooting the messenger will bring about the desired result, I'll take the bullet."
But which T&T citizen would want to "shoot" the outspoken President for delivering a message about moral issues that she felt were absent in the nation's schools?
Her statements were upsetting and they took me back to when I wrote about "Moral Education, Philosophy, Values and Ethics" on March 9 last year in the T&T Guardian. I stated that "Moral education at primary and secondary school levels should be encouraged as one possible way to prevent a future in which there would be a recurrence of the current challenges facing Trinidad & Tobago."
In my article, I mentioned that there was already a draft "Core Curriculum Guide for strengthening morals and values education in educational institutions in Trinidad and Tobago" prepared by Dr Kwaku Senah, between 2002 and 2005.
Among the recommended books in Dr Senah's draft was Doreen Anderson's, "Moral Education, a course intended to encourage high moral standards in our children."
I also recalled that the late Chief Servant Makandal Daaga proposed that ethics be introduced into the curriculum of the now-defunct Elizabeth College, Bacolet, Tobago when Mr Embau Moheni, current NJAC deputy political leader was the principal.
I have written about the need for adjustments to our education system. I indicated that there is a crisis in the Humanities and I have advocated that History, Geography, and Spanish should be mandatory in our curriculum.
I cannot ignore the matter of STEM (Science, Technology Education, and Mathematics). However, I insist that we need to balance Science Studies with Humanities. STEM subjects have to be factored in. But when we look at the scholarships which are gained after the CAPE exams, there is a glaring disproportion toward the Sciences and Maths.
Furthermore, I remember two things about developing well-rounded professionals. Prof Courtenay Bartholomew once declared that we should have been selecting more students with qualifications in the Humanities for entry to medical school. Likewise, another person said, "Even if the top student scorers are the ones gaining admissions it does not ensure that we get the best doctors because being a good doctor is not just about academic knowledge and experience but bedside manner, problem-solving and a good emotional quotient."
I agree with Madame President. The current generation needs to make sure that the education system is rethought, not just for the sake of academic brilliance, but also to fulfil character development.
Morally well-grounded citizens are the foundation of a great society.