EDITORIAL: An education powerhouse

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Anyone who reads our editorials will know that we are passionate about education. We believe that the future lies in our children and we can only reach our full potential if we nurture our children and fill them with knowledge. After that, we can sit back and reap the rewards.
Education is a subject that we have written about ad nauseam. We have done so because we feel a certain sense of frustration when we think of all the bright minds wandering about our bit of paradise that are not being challenged and not helping to fulfill their and our nation’s true potential. You have heard us say it before but it is worth repeating: there is no reason why the next big thing could not come from the mind of an Antiguan or Barbudan. The next Facebook, the next Snapchat, the next Instagram. The next multi-billion dollar idea could be from one of our neighbours. Why not?
Well, as it sits today, our students are not challenged to think that way. They are placed in an ‘education box’ and taught boundaries. We have designed our education system to focus on mediocrity and not high performance. At times, it appears as though we are more concerned about how many kids we can push through the system rather than the quality of the education that those children receive.  More to the point, how do we extract the full potential of our students for the benefit of the nation? If we were to think more along those lines, we would have children that would make Antigua & Barbuda a better paradise tomorrow than it is today.
Recently, the former chair of the Antigua and Barbuda University Development Committee, Juno Samuel, labelled the current education system as ‘destroyed.’ The retired educator called for the restructuring of the education system and the curriculum. He pulled no punches when offering his critique saying, “It’s not just broken, it’s destroyed. We have to pick up the pieces. We have to begin to put in place a curriculum that is going to reflect the kind of development we want.”
Mr Samuel was not chastising the teachers in the system but rather the system itself. His point is that we are working with a system, which we inherited many years ago and which needs to be brought up-to-date and made more relevant to the goals of our nation. We would go further and say that we need to make it relevant to the future and our niche in the increasingly competitive global marketplace.
There was another area that Mr Samuel touched on that is a pet peeve of ours and since he did such a good job, we will leave it in his words to explain. He said, “We have reached the stage where what we take to be education is not education. It’s schooling. [We] send children to school, they learn a certain set of facts, we test them on those facts, teachers teach to those facts, and if they get a decent grade on those facts, we say that they are educated, but they are not.” How true. 
This is not helped by the fact that so many parents see school more as daycare than they do as a place of learning. The hands-off approach that they display towards their child’s future is not lost on the children and it sets the foundation for future expectations. How can a child exceed expectations if there are no expectations set?
Unfortunately, there is no magic bullet solution. Our education system has not evolved sufficiently over the years and many people’s attitudes towards education have become lethargic. That means that the solution will take many years, but every journey begins with the first step and until that step is made we will remain grounded in mediocrity.
Like Mr Samuel, we are appealing to everyone in the education system and teaching profession to intervene so that we can assess where we are, where we want to go, and how we can get there. During that exercise, we need to identify ways of encouraging children and parents to see the value of education – to see knowledge as a vehicle to carry them and our nation to dizzying heights of success.
It is time that we look to the future and push though the boundaries of the education system that we have inherited and used for too long. This and the next generations need to think critically and analytically as Mr Samuel suggests. Being able to recite facts is not the same as being educated and being able to apply knowledge. To become the economic powerhouse that our politicians talk about we need to first build an education powerhouse.  
We invite you to visit www.antiguaobserver.com and give us your feedback on our opinions.

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