Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by this author are their own and do not represent the official position of the Barbados TODAY.
by Julia Hanschell
You cannot underestimate the benefits of a small school, where each student’s unique potential is focused on. Where natural strengths and passions are embraced and weaknesses are productively targeted.
Our schools have simply become too large to cater to the generation of ‘Multipotentialites’ we are now raising. If you do not know to what I am referring, watch this mesmerising ‘Ted Talk’: https://www.ted.com/talks/emilie_wapnick_why_some_of_us_don_t_have_one_true_calling
This will probably explain why far too many students, even at the point of leaving school, still cannot answer the question, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ Or more relevantly, ‘What problem do you want to solve in this world when you enter the workforce?’
Students are currently faced with three main issues which negatively impact their futures. First, they have to choose between CSEC subjects; multiple doors are closed through having to select subjects within ‘bands’, based on timetabling limitations and school staffing. So, many students end up having to accept ‘default’ subjects in which they have
neither interest nor ability.
Secondly, CSEC curriculum is extensive and relies on application of information, together with the skills outlined in the Ministry of Education’s Attainment Targets.
Many of these targets are far from being mastered at earlier year levels due to large classes and the pressure of curriculum.
Yet, CSEC is not balanced really; it is regionally-focused, which is understandable, but not globally relevant in the same way, in the 2020s, as International Curricula is.
We live in a global community and our students need to see regional issues in an internationally- relevant context. In 1975 the educational pendulum began to swing from the international to the regional and it is now swinging in the opposite direction and our education system is not swinging in tandem with it.
Thirdly, technology has entered the mix and we embrace its accelerated evolution in our businesses, homes and on smart devices, but the majority of schools are still using extinct methods of instruction (like projectors), with students having no online access during their learning day.
This creates two issues. One, school could potentially be the only place where many students are exposed to working online effectively. Two, with this access comes preparation; not just how to use the internet, but embracing its value as a tool. The latter preparing students for real-life as there is an expected etiquette which employers now rightfully demand in the tech-evolved workplace.
During work hours, they should be no distraction from the job which requires employees to use online tools only for production. Never before has self-discipline and personal integrity been more important.
Thirty years ago, an employee could be seen reading a novel during work hours, but today’s interferences are far more deceptive; a click hides them from view.
Coupled with this is the accepted attitude that there is a personal right to socialise online while working simultaneously. A study reported that once social media is open to employees, it is ‘checked’ on average, 12 times each workday. Hence, many firms already employ tech-policing systems.
Employers have new regulations ensuring compliance that internet access has instinctively dictated. They understand the financial link between productivity and profit.
If we do not use technology in schools for education as well as teaching the expectations of professional, post- school, behavioural practice, we will be under-educating students on two levels and setting them up for double failure.
Failure to launch with grades in their pocket and failure to meet expectations in the workforce. A US study of the dual effects of social media in the workplace supports the view that it “may simultaneously contribute to productive behaviours (task-oriented and relationship-building) as well as unproductive behaviours (deviance) at work.” https://inhouse-legal.eu/in-house- managment/social-media-workplace/. Deviance at techy schools already exists; work will
be merely an extension.
Small schools, therefore, provide so much more. They are masters of the ‘Hidden Curriculum’ (almost all of which is social) because with smaller classes, comes extra time to incorporate holistically beyond curriculum.
According to Boston University’s website, the ‘Hidden Curriculum’ is, “an amorphous collection of “implicit academic, social, and cultural messages,”“unwritten rules and unspoken expectations,” and “unofficial norms, behaviours and values” of the dominant-culture context in which all teaching and learning is situated. These “assumptions and expectations that are not formally communicated, established, or conveyed” stipulate the “right” way to think, speak, look, and behave”.
In Barbados, in 2021, we have no time to teach the ‘Hidden Curriculum’. We push academic- result-driven learning and the pragmatic, social skills required for work beyond school are ignored.
As Mike Yates says, ‘I now spend almost every day working to disrupt and change the system that I believe failed me and so many other students. I talk, write and dream so much about the future of learning, education, and schools.’
There are a few of us who want desperately to ‘disrupt’ education as it is and re-write the brief entirely. Make no mistake, there can be no half-measures. The only thing that makes sense, on every level, is drastic transformation.
Best said by Albert Einstein, ‘Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.’
Julia Hanschell can be contacted on email@example.com.