More Ed­u­ca­tion

Mus­ings are thoughts, the thought­ful kind. For the pur­pose of th­ese ar­ti­cles, a-mus­ings are thoughts that might amuse, en­ter­tain and even en­lighten.

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Michael Walker

As many read­ers might be aware, Swe­den re­cently held par­lia­men­tary elec­tions after which the rul­ing party had to go to al­low a mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ment led by the So­cial Democrats to take over the ar­du­ous task of run­ning the coun­try along with their part­ners the Green Party.

The new Gov­ern­ment has pro­posed that the 9 years of manda­tory school be ex­tended by a fur­ther 3 years to cre­ate one of the world's most ex­ten­sive ed­u­ca­tion pro­grams for all chil­dren. Ex­tended manda­tory school­ing, it is sug­gested, will be ac­com­pa­nied by smaller class sizes; th­ese are a few fea­tures of the So­cial Democrats and Green Party's joint pro­posal for ed­u­ca­tion that ap­pears to be pos­si­bly their most im­por­tant re­form pro­gram.

The two par­ties plan to make up­per sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion com­pul­sory, adding three years to the cur­rent re­quire­ment, which will raise the school leav­ing age to 18. They also plan to re­duce class sizes in pre-schools, raise teacher salaries and give ex­tra support to schools that have the worst re­sults. The Teach­ers' Union wel­comes the pro­pos­als that are es­ti­mated to cost 135 mil­lion USD.

And you know, Dear Reader, it would per­haps not be a bad idea if St. Lu­cia could do some­thing sim­i­lar. And here are a few rea­sons why …

We would need many more teach­ers, train­ers, ther­a­pists, and coun­selors which would hope­fully pro­vide hun­dreds of jobs for suit­ably qual­i­fied men and women.

We would need new premises for th­ese schools, ei­ther through a com­pre­hen­sive build­ing pro­gram, a re­fur­bish­ing pro­gram for ex­ist­ing build­ings, or a uti­liza­tion of un­der­uti­lized schools. Such a pro­gram would breathe new life into the con­struc­tion in­dus­try.

We could ex­tend and broaden the school cur­ricu­lum to in­clude pro­grams for stu­dents of all abil­i­ties, spe­cific needs and in­ter­ests. Spe­cial skills pro­grams could be in­tro­duced that would cater for and support a wide range of trades. The Arts could be bet­ter pro­vided for. All this would pro­vide a fer­tile breed­ing ground for new gen­er­a­tions of skilled work­ers, artists and ar­ti­sans that would lift the stan­dards of our so­ci­ety. There is also a fairly good chance that a manda­tory ed­u­ca­tion pro­gram that in­cluded older chil­dren would help to re­duce crime that pos­si­bly has its roots in rest­less­ness, a sense of not car­ing, a feel­ing of despair and a lack of di­rec­tion and prepa­ra­tion for what might lie ahead. If noth­ing else, it would keep young peo­ple off the streets, raise the age of any crim­i­nal de­but, and even lessen crime.

Gen­er­ally speak­ing, peo­ple ac­cept that a bet­ter ed­u­cated so­ci­ety is a good thing, but lip ser­vice is not enough, we need ac­tion. A vi­sion of a new fu­ture fu­eled by ed­u­ca­tion could in­spire a na­tion that is wal­low­ing in des­per­a­tion not know­ing where to turn next for sal­va­tion. Pro­duc­tiv­ity would in­crease over time with bet­ter trained and hope­fully more mo­ti­vated work­ers. Once you free your mind, noth­ing is im­pos­si­ble. Imag­ine the un­think­able for a mo­ment, and imag­ine that go­ing to school could be equated with go­ing to work, that par­al­lels could be drawn be­tween work and school, and what do you get? Paid school­ing, that's what you get.

The fi­nal three years of a school ca­reer could be­come a tran­si­tion pe­riod be­tween the business of work­ing in school and the chal­lenges of seek­ing em­ploy­ment. Chil­dren could be given a stipend, no, not a stipend; chil­dren could ‘earn' an in­come re­lated to their attendance at school. Crazy idea? Maybe, but think about it: School be­comes an in­come gen­er­at­ing step­ping-stone to work­ing life. Once you shake off the prej­u­dices, ev­ery­thing be­comes fea­si­ble. Com­mu­nity ser­vice would def­i­nitely have to be in­tro­duced into the cur­ricu­lum for the fi­nal three years of an ex­tended manda­tory school pro­gram. If the chil­dren are be­ing paid for go­ing to school they should also pay back to so­ci­ety and learn to play their part and con­trib­ute to­wards a bet­ter life for all. The mil­lions paid out to du­bi­ous stop­gap mea­sures could be chan­neled into cur­ricu­lum based ini­tia­tives whereby stu­dents could take re­spon­si­bil­ity for, and pride in, the up­keep and main­te­nance of their en­vi­ron­ment.

And the cost of all this? Con­sid­er­able, but if we have to beg and bor­row, let's do it to fi­nance such a pro­gram; we will, at least, be build­ing a fu­ture for the na­tion and not just darn­ing old socks, mud­dling along and mak­ing do with the lit­tle we have. It's called vi­sion – and belief.

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