Feature: Minister Jones: Challenges in Education Can be Overcome

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Minister of Education and Human Resource Development, Ronald Jones. (FP)
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Students have been told that achieving an excellent education in this century can be met with challenges but they are surmountable.

This is contained in a message sent to all educational institutions by Minister of Education, Ronald Jones, to mark Education Month, 2011.

In alluding to the theme for the Month, Overcoming Educational Challenges in the 21st Century, the Minister said, "every stage of education has its share of impediments". Defining challenges as "difficult, demanding or stimulating tasks", he noted that "they present problems that test the ability of an individual to accomplish something".??

Educational hurdles, the Minister added, could refer to those conditions or distractions in the future environment of a person that would make learning formidable and lessen the chances of a person achieving his/her goals in life. Some of these challenges were outlined and it was explained, for instance, that for the older students it might be difficult to discern which subjects or courses would best provide them with a reliable job, career, or entrepreneurial opportunity.?? "New careers are being constantly created, and traditional qualifications are sometimes not enough," the Minister affirmed.

Adding that younger students were challenged to maintain excellent grades as they prepared to compete for entrance into the secondary school of their choice, he stressed, "The pressure of expectation can in itself be a stumbling block." It was pointed out too that some students, on the educational journey of life, might find learning onerous since they might perceive the demands of the classroom as

oppressive and stifling. The distraction of technology was also seen as another challenge for students given "the easy access to the deluge of information, both meaningful and meaningless, that must be navigated through to acquire pertinent knowledge and understanding".

Acknowledging, however, that a good education should be one of the desirable goals of every human being, the Minister said: "It provides us with the knowledge, right attitude, skills and competencies to live a successful life.?? Learning is a lifelong activity and we need the right foundation in our nursery, primary, secondary and tertiary institutions to make a meaningful contribution to our country and humankind as a whole."

The former educator also expressed the view that teachers needed to take on the task of embracing technology in their methodologies to strike a delicate balance between imparting knowledge and skills and creating the excitement of learning in their students.?? "Technology needs to be embraced to fully reach students and prepare them for future living," Mr. Jones admitted.??

He argued that students "at all ages and stages of education" must also overcome the challenge of balancing the increasing demands of both their studies and their social life. And, he accepted that the internet, instant forms of communication and social networking sites could be distracting ports of instant gratification "as we cruise on the river of lifelong learning".?? Stating that most students loved socialising, even at times when they should be studying, the Minister,

who is also responsible for Human Resource Development, observed: "Establishing clear goals and the means to achieve them, along with proper time management would help them to overcome the temptations and distractions that reduce performance."??

Students were also advised to rely on their teachers and parents who are "important cogs in the educational machinery of life" and "central to educational achievement".?? "In order to maximise their potential students must accept guidance," Mr. Jones observed.

In addition, the increasing costs of education as students mature and seek to further their studies at a higher level was also deemed as challenging. However, the Minister urged them to overcome this and other obstacles by persevering and remaining focused on long-term goals while prioritising their daily activities. "Older students need to thoroughly research their options in life and examine viable alternatives. They need to learn to be versatile, multi-talented and multi-faceted in order to adapt to the one constant in life, change. Consistent hard work will ensure that all students achieve excellent results," he stressed.

Contained within the Minister’s message is also advice for the society as a whole. ??He concluded: "All persons must develop the positive attitude that will increase their energy and drive to succeed. The will to succeed can provide them with the wings to soar over the educational challenges that may stand in their way. A positive attitude can overcome the challenges associated with limited circumstances; final success lies more in our attitude than in our circumstances.

"We must remember two keys to future survival: learning how to learn at all stages of life, and learning how to get along with people. Follow this advice and you will conquer any challenges that you may encounter in the 21st century."

joy-ann.gill@barbados.gov.bb

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