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