For decades, thousands of Barbadian children have been instructed to ???go to school, learn, pass exams and get a good job???. However, what if this mantra, though often relied upon to encourage students to do their best, was incorrect?
According to researcher and tutor at the Erdiston Teachers’ Training College, Dr. Ramona Archer-Bradshaw, there may be a fundamental flaw in the foundation of the Barbadian education system.
Speaking recently at the Science, Technology and Education Symposium at the Frank Collymore Hall, the tutor stated that, through a research project she conducted in 2010, it was discovered that most students admitted that emphasis was placed more on memorising the information taught during class rather than on critical thinking and the application of knowledge.
Dr. Archer-Bradshaw asserted that Barbados was ???an exam-driven society??? and as a result many students were taught to memorise information to pass exams rather than to absorb information for personal development and growth.
According to the tutor, the information given to students should not only be useful in exams, but should also be applicable in the context of the real world. She stressed the need for critical thinking and ???a curriculum that is characterised by social relevancy to our society???.
???We must remember that we are not only preparing our students for the exam, but we also have to prepare them for everyday life, so critical thinking is also very important???Yes, we need to teach the content but (we must) make sure that we relate the content to everyday life,??? she cautioned.
However, even though the current education model employed by schools is a more rigid and traditional one, Dr. Archer- Bradshaw declared that the responsibility to encourage children to learn lies as much on the society at large as on educators. She added that there was also a need for parents to seek to encourage their children to learn through experiments and activities at home.
Unfortunately, the process of enacting change can be a very difficult one. ???I???ve had instances in which the teachers that I???m training would go into the classroom with new ideas (and approaches)???and the students would blatantly say ???but ma???am/sir, where (are) the notes? I need notes!?????? she disclosed.
Science Teacher at the Darryl Jordan Secondary School, Ronald Worrell, agreed with Dr. Archer-Bradshaw???s assessment. Mr. Worrell, who on various occasions acted as a marker for the Caribbean Examinations Council Exams (CXCs), stated that ???CXC looks very hard for what you remember(ed)???.
Regrettably, this strict adherence to formulaic and specific answers often leaves knowledgeable students at a major disadvantage. ???There are instances where there are very smart students who write exams but they didn???t answer what CXC wanted them to answer, so they don???t get awarded for that???. Commenting on the CXC???s marking scheme he added: ???There is very little deviation from that???.
According to Mr. Worrell, the large syllabus is another challenge that prevents all-inclusive learning from taking place. The secondary school teacher said that seeking to cover all of the topics often prevented teachers from broadening the scope of each lesson to provide students with information that is relevant to everyday life.
He noted that even though students learned important information during any session that sought to broaden the scope of the lesson, they would not be able to use that additional information in the exam. Conversely, information that is needed in the exam is often not very useful outside of that context.
The teacher of more than five years said that students often struggled to apply the knowledge they acquired. ???I know a lot of the stuff I???m teaching them isn???t really applicable outside. Sure, they???ll need it if they want to continue in sciences because they need to build a foundation, but outside of that it is very difficult for them to translate what we???re doing in class to what???s happening outside.
“We are teaching our children to remember; our children have become so trapped in a box of where they need to know the answer, it???s not about how I got the answer it???s just that I know the answer,??? he lamented.