Education: Salvaging education

Our past, present and future are inseparably and inextricably intertwined. Consequently, to treat with the present, I must trespass in the realms of the . .. . . past and the future. At the risk of alienating the ‘old boys,’ I must confess to having a rather jaundiced view of even the ‘glorious’ QC past, much less formal education in Guyana generally. Everyone admits that the present state of education is not happy and most believe its future is rather dim. But if we do the root-and-branch work required, things can change.

For me, four things that must change immediately. First, the authoritarian, undemocratic, un-republican, un-civil, un-emancipated pedagogical practices of virtually all formal education in Guyana, except, perhaps, at nursery level. I cite, for example., the militaristic row-and-column formation of our classrooms; the colonial – and slavery-inspired violence being done to the concept of “discipline,” and the denial of its true meaning and derivation from the word “disciple” and the denial of its true meaning and derivation from the word “disciple;” the demanding of respect from the young by adults who routinely disrespect them, and who have little awareness of what self-respect is and means in practice; the debate culture of points-scoring, defending the indefensible, tunnel vision, the adversarial taking of sides: arbitrarily reduced to two – one for and one against; the elevation of exam-preparation and – taking as the chief ends of school; the absence of mindful reflection on our educational practice, purpose and content and the removal of joy and real pleasure in, and from, learning.

Secondly, the injustices, inequities, and iniquities of those with power and authority who should be setting examples of good governance, dignity and decency in the family, school and community (and I name, for clarity and example, violence against children and Buxton) and the pretence that they (the 3 Is) do not have a cause-and-effect relationship with the multiple deformities currently plaguing our country.

Thirdly, the abuse of language – for example, referring to foreign extraction of our natural resources as “foreign investment,” drug lords as “businessmen,” kleptocracy as “democracy,” state lawlessness and total disrespect for the rule of law as “law enforcement” – which is the scaffolding of our individual and collective suffering.

Fourthly, the refusal to locate and integrate serious sex education in the formal curriculum, despite the rising morbidity and mortality rates from sexually transmitted infections and the fact that we are all products of sexual relations.

Although, in my experience with policy-makers, the more doable, necessary and good the thing, the less welcome it is – here are six things we can start doing now. And to provide an acceptable frame of reference and ground for my recommendations, I reach no further than a few lines from the Mission Statement of our Ministry of Education: “Education is

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