Parental support of students is said to be one of the weakest areas that public schools grapple with in Antigua and Barbuda.
Veteran educator Dr. Colin Greene says if this can be reversed with parents being more involved, it will positively impact the success of students.
“There is a natural correlation between the students who do well and the parents who take a keen interest in what is taking place in the students’ life at school, including challenging the administration and providing the equipment necessary for them to function,” he said.
Dr. Greene, principal of Princess Margaret School (PMS), said there are parents who show up to parent-teacher meetings just to sign the attendance sheet and then they leave without making any enquiries about their children or to sit and hear about the overall challenges the students face at the institution.
He said there are also those who fail to provide the equipment that students need to study a particular subject.
Acknowledging that parents have their own challenges, when quizzed by the hosts of Voice of the People yesterday, Dr. Greene said: “Nobody expects, realistically, that parents should do the work of a teacher. I just said to you that I tell them (the teachers) they must teach them [students] like they don’t have parents; and if they do, it is a plus.”
He continued, “But it is the mindset … my grandmother; what she focused on was creating a desire in you that you must seek excellence … our older folks were doing this for a long time and that was to ask what you did today … you can’t be too busy to ask … or say let me see the book.”
Dr. Greene said even interest on that level is lacking. He noted that parents can determine if their children are attending classes and taking notes by simply examining the children’s books and asking questions.
The educator said teachers cannot carry all the load and neither can parents; hence it is important that they work together; but parents should start providing a nurturing environment and mindset in their children to do well – even before the children begin attending school.
In addition to his pronouncement about the lack of parental involvement in students’ education, Dr. Greene said the education system should provide students with more than one level of exit from secondary school. Currently, the exit is only recognised as acceptable after successful completion of the regional Caribbean Secondary Examinations Certificate (CSEC).
He said having multiple exit levels is necessary because children do not enter and exit the system with the same level of competency in every area.
According to him, about three years ago, he and several other principals put the idea of having different secondary school exit strategies to Cabinet, and he still believes it is something to be seriously considered because having one system means many students would continue to fail.
“It goes against the grain of the philosophy of education of multiple intelligence and that some people are gifted in different ways. I think what we need to get to is to a point, whether it is modular that you say we have this level of competency, because not everybody that fails CSEC maths don’t know maths; they know plenty maths,” he said.
Dr. Greene emphasized that the aim is to prepare each child to make their way in society after they have left school.
Another issue he noted is the system of making subjects compulsory at the same general level, which he said is unfair to many. He noted that this was done with CSEC Mathematics which once had a basic level and a general level. Now, there is only General Mathematics and the subject is compulsory.
“In the great developed countries, don’t fool yourself, everybody [doesn’t] do the same maths. I was educated in the American system and not everybody is doing the same maths, not everybody doing Calculus and so on … but here we now say all horses going to the same trough and that is why we are getting the results. It doesn’t mean the children are dumb to maths … and we cannot go being frantic about maths to the expense of other subject areas, but that is exactly what is happening,” he stated.
Dr. Greene said he believes that if all subjects were compulsory, they would have the same low pass rate as is being seen in Mathematics. In Antigua and Barbuda this year, only 40 percent of the students who wrote Mathematics at CSEC passed the subject, which was lower than the 46 percent regional pass rate for the subject.