EDITORIAL: A broken record

The mere title of this piece may be lost on many of the students who recently sat Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examinations.  After all, how many young teens know anything about vinyl records and the reference to them being broken. Since the topic of today is education, we will take a moment to explain to those youth who may be reading and do not understand the reference.  A broken record refers to those old black vinyl records you may see laying around your parents or grandparents’ homes.  The recording is made up of concentric grooves in the vinyl and playback requires a small needle to travel in the groves and transmit the “sound” to the amplifier.  (It is more complicated than that but good enough for now.)

If the vinyl gets scratched, the new groove had the potential to cause the needle to travel across the record to a previously played part of the song.  Most people referred to the constant repeat as “skipping” but the term to describe a person constantly repeating themselves, to the point of annoyance was “a broken record”.

Today, we will be sounding like a broken record, because we are going to be sounding-off on the results of the CSEC.  While many are celebrating the improvements in the overall results, we simply cannot be overly enthusiastic about what we have heard thus far.  Yes, there has been some improvement but nothing that makes us jump for joy and gives us any comfort that we are on the road to a permanent fix to the poor results that have plagued Antigua and Barbuda and the region for many years.  Simply put, the results are still subpar and a serious focus needs to be brought to bear on the matter.

At least, we are comforted that we are not alone in our assessment.  Registrar for the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC), Glenroy Cumberbatch has highlighted that a significant number of students have failed each subject they attempted.  He said, “We have over 11,000 candidates who took exams who did not receive any grades 1 to 3 in any of the subjects that they took.”  Think of that for a moment.   Over 11,000 of the 60,000 students could not muster a single pass.  That is crazy and it is an indictment on our education system. 

And if you want to hear more crazy, Cumberbatch stated that based on the calculations by the regional examination body, out of the possible population of students to write exams at the end of secondary school, just over 20 percent actually gets the opportunity to do so.  Do the math (no pun intended because our youth continue to do poorly in that subject), only 20 percent of students get the opportunity to write the exam and 13 percent are not receiving acceptable grades.  If the youth is our future and the weapon for survival is education then what are their chances?  

Cumberbatch made the point, “We are not producing persons for the market, to either employ themselves or to be employed.”  No kidding.  Youth unemployment is an epidemic at home and in the region and the best chance at a cure (i.e. education) is severely lacking and underperforming.  What chance do we have of ever becoming an “economic powerhouse” when our youth are ill prepared for the future?

Of all the topics that we cover, education is probably our most frustrating.  Forget politics and all the melee of corruption, etc., education is the number one.  Yes, you have heard it all from us before (hence the broken record reference) but it we need to and will continue to speak on the topic until we see meaningful change.  How many times have we referenced the words of Nelson Mandela, who said “Education is the most powerful weapon that you can use to change the world”?  We do so because we believe in that concept wholeheartedly.  If we have a well educated public, and especially the youth, problems such as political corruption, etc. would be solved.  An educated public would not worship politicians because they would recognise the employee-employer relationship that exists between the public and their employees, the politicians.  They will not go to their employees begging for a job, they will demand that they do their jobs and create an environment that has abundant employment for everyone.

Transparency and accountability would be demanded, not requested.  And, when politicians try to pull the wool over the public’s eyes, they would be outed by a well-educated citizenry. Conspiracy theorists tell us that we are fighting against a well-established system that is designed to keep the people down, but we have a hard time believing that.  We just think that our education is flawed and it is simply a case of ‘no one cares’.  We have allowed mediocrity to become the norm and we prefer to conform rather than to think independently and challenge the system.

Unfortunately, we have talked ourselves into believing that we are doing our best and convinced ourselves and our neighbours that some kids just will fail, no matter what we do.  We persuade ourselves to think  that private schools are better than public schools and we pat ourselves on the back when the dismal performance numbers uptick not realising that the uptick is still dismal. Only when we accept that we are not doing enough for our youth will we have a chance at change. 

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