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posted 19 Aug 2020, 04:47 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 19 Aug 2020, 04:55 ]
"They must realise that they are striving merely
for freedom from hunger but for freedom to create
and construct...that the individual be active and
responsible not a well fed cog in the machine."

Erich Fromm
The Heart of Man

The announcement by the State that schools will be closed until December has settled a number of issues and brought others immediately to the fore. No matter what models, configurations, modifications are being considered, the old pre Covid days are gone and the new ones are not far behind.

I am of the view that the moment demands that all stakeholders, led by the organised voice of the mass of teachers, must carry the day. Left to itself, the Ministry will try to 'bring back the ole time days''. History, finding voice through the Covid pandemic, demands fundamental change.

After August 20th, the question of re-scheduling exams, adapting the curriculum, on line classes, shift systems…all these have been put to bed. Humpty Dumpty has fallen off the wall. It is about devising a new model of education. Exams cannot be the goals of education. Education is about teaching for human development.

If learning occurs in this context, exams which are tools for evaluation, will be 'passed' sans the accompanying trauma to place children in the 'best' schools to undergo the same exam-oriented stress for 5-7 years more with the accompanying attrition rate. Will it be an easy transition? No! Vested interests who benefit from arrangements like the Concordat, the school books/store industry/ the lessons factories. These will be clamouring to put Humpty Dumpty together again.

Teachers must take the lead in transforming and redefining the goals of education from the 'cog-in the-wheel'' model to one where human and social development is prioritized; where education is creative and not regurgitative a la the banking concept in teaching, where the teacher is the repository of all knowledge. He/she fills the containers, students, who simply and uncritically absorb and the “best and brightest” regurgitate most accurately. Examinations should be used to evaluate and not eliminate; with the non “best and brightest” programmed to lower their expectations as they are 'fed into the machine'

What are going to be our needs going forward in an economy that has to be radically transformed? We have to move away from imports. We have to grow our
own food, to engage in secondary production. How are we going to manage our health systems? What is going to inform our technical education programmes? The university can no longer produce elites who seems all too often out of day to day reality.

The situation demands that the teachers at the primary and secondary level especially begin to engage their colleagues/comrades on these issue NOW. They must use their professional training to assess the past few months of crisis in education and the wider society to formulate and construct new ways.

The next 4 months should not see parents trying to turn their homes into schools. We must be aware of charlatans in the ranks who will trying to open 'lessons factories’ so the students will be ready in December.

The leadership of the teachers should seek to engage the mass members, parents, students, other professional associations. This would mean that when the consultations take place, positions known to all concerned would be presented to the Ministry. I have been told that suggestions, done a priori, are set out at the consultations as 'fait accomplis'. Then when criticisms are raised the Union is accused of being obstructionist and non-cooperative.

Those with sectarian interests must be opposed. Teachers, parents must attack the Concordat in the same way that Black Lives Matter has called for the removal of colonial statues. There is no need to further detail how this agreement promotes privilege, empowers sectors outside the Ministry or how it is used for financial gain; how it fosters the culture of elitism based on religion, race and especially social class.

And then we wonder how/why the kind of social mania we are seeing in the wake of the elections has come about. A new curriculum would see a significant decrease in books sales, book bags, computers. The business of education would contract.

The world won't get no better if we just let it be. We gotta change it...you and me. With teachers, parents and students in the lead.