I begin by quoting the words of His Imperial Majesty H.I.M, education, he says, “is the basis for the greatness, the power, the pride and the prosperity of a nation”. In saying this I feel it necessary to give greater scope to what is considered as education. This I think is imperative because in these modern times there has developed the problem of distinguishing education from schooling. The education of our nation that we seek can not only be “a process of giving and receiving systematic instruction”.
Though some may think that this deficit only applies to the primary and even secondary level education, I would dare say that this problem we face as a nation with education also extends to the tertiary level. Indeed, it would be naive if we were to ignore the correlations. Students are students are students and one day they will become our labor force - lecturing and teaching next generation students or leading and administrating over the nation - these facts make the role of education of the nation one of the fundamental keys to building a firm civil society with a solid foundation.
However, it has become far too apparent that the goals of educating the nation have become misguided. Pursuing and following models not suited for Barbados. Where it has become commonplace to see children fighting and cussing out in the streets, the aspiration of learning has become relegated and equated to a career path and youths are more interested in the end result than the steps taken to get there. In many cases we must even ask if the interest to pursue higher education is truly the goal of the youth or if their parent's own pursuit for glory has influenced their matriculation.
Whatever the reasons clearly one should not mistake schooling for education as they are not synonymous. John Dewey (1916) provides a useful definition for education stating that it is “a process of living and not a preparation for future living”. We always hear the educational pundits say that education is preparing whomever for the world of work. Education seen through these blinders that we wear is oftentimes viewed as preparation for some encounter which the student is likely to have when they are tossed into the workforce (as if we are not constantly and continuously in the world seeking navigational tools). Though this premise shared by most of the world might be true; Dewey challenges this square peg, round hole logic believing that learning is active and experiences which are guided foster the abilities which the youth need to make meaningful contributions to society.
Let’s be frank, capitalism has reached the school system. Many tertiary level students are satisfied with ‘just’ obtaining their degree. There is an err of competitiveness which does not foster an environment for the development of well-rounded individuals. In many cases teaching methodologies are outdated and urgently need to meet requirements of the changing times. In many cases lecturers do recognise these problems and try to address them but in some cases the problems arise from the administrative levels. Many of the attitudes and philosophies on campus with students, lecturers and administration alike have been sensitized and fueled by “new industrialized, urbanized, atomized conditions which have disintegrated the family structure”, teaching that learning only happens in school settings ruling the community and the home null and void. Furthermore, leading to distorted notions of “intellectual activities being dissociated from practical everyday occupations”. Many students lack the passion for their course of study. They are there for the papers(degree) because it is the surest guarantee to get more paper(money).
So what can we sum up on education thus far? In the words of H.I.M “the possession of degrees alone does not classify anyone as fully educated”. We know that education must marry moral guidance and sit on a pillar of culture and heritage in order to build the nation. H.I.M aptly states, “ all the knowledge to be drawn from the fountainhead of education not only contributes to the well-being of mankind and to the performance of humanitarian deeds, but also a veritable pillar upholding the liberty of the land”. Moreover, with the introduction of tuition fees in Barbados after decades of free tertiary level education made accessible to all, definitions and ideologies like Mark Smith's has come under attack where, “the wise, hopeful and respectful cultivation of learning undertaken in the belief that all should have the chance to share in life” has become but a fleeting illusion in a capitalist climate.
Smith's working understanding of education as “a process of inviting truth and possibility, of encouraging and giving time to discovery” has been eroded and in some cases not even considered because our westernized distorted educational setup, inherited from our colonizers, has inculcated attitudes of tardiness and mediocrity into our learning where regurgitation is a sure way to place one's self at the top of the class. These occurrences are worrisome as they lead one to wonder who will tell the story of the next generation? Who will take responsibility? Will our story continue to be one of deprivation and uncouthness? Who will uphold the liberty of the land? There will be no short of academics but where will the humanitarians be born from? Again, let us check the correlation. A sense of culture must be present in order for a development of culture to be developed. If there exist no culture who does the nation look to in twenty years when the present stalwarts of the nation's cultural expression have gone. One of the main objectives of the university must be “the safeguarding and development of the culture of the people it serves”. I personally see a cultureless, materialistic, western indoctrinated university population which can be viewed as a direct microcosm of the wider society.
Knowledge of self is the way forward and by extension “education of the youth is the surest guarantee for a better life”. However, in a society where the merit of a man is based in his job-description or how big his possessions are, the first task is to help the masses realise their collective power through mass educational campaigns. Only through a well informed public opinion can growth of a political and social kind be stimulated. All things working in tandem with each other.
In conclusion, I share with you the words of the King of Kings, “universities stand today as the most promising hope for constructive solutions to the problems that beset the modern world - problems which prevent the peaceful cooperation of nations, problems which threaten the world and humanity with death and disaster. From the universities must come men, ideas, knowledge, experience, technical skills and the deep humane understanding vital to fruitful relations among nations, without these, world order, for which we have so long strived, cannot be established”.
by Felisha Osula Holder
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