THE PIPER: Education Month

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* too much analysis can lead to paralysis

It is September once again and it is time for the school doors to be opened to all our eager students at the Nursery, Primary, Secondary and Tertiary levels who are waiting to be “educated”. And since it is September, ‘Education Month’  has already been launched with the Minister of Education setting the tone of what lies ahead for the entire education system via his elaboration of the year’s theme. “Each child matters: Stakeholders unite for the enhancement of education” is the theme for 2016.
piperMinister Rupert Roopnaraine did not disappoint and the “stakeholders” cited were “parents, community leaders, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), religious organisations and development partners”. Interestingly, he did not mention the Ministry of Education, the teachers and other members of the education sector that consumes the largest chunk of the national budget. But maybe he assumed they would be performing their designated roles.  The Minister placed a great emphasis on the role of parents in the delivery of education. Taking cognisance of the burgeoning number of private schools in the country, he mentioned the appointment of separate individuals to coordinate the Parent Teachers Associations (PTA’s) of public and private schools.
Last year, at the launching of the inaugural “Education Month” of the APNU/AFC coalition government,  the Minister had been a bit more expansive on the vision of the new regime. While the theme then was “Quality Educational Leadership: Improving Schools from within”, unlike what it may have suggested, the Minister also emphasised the importance of parents and PTA’s who are from “without”.  He took pains to note however, that the government did not want to take an ad hoc approach but rather would initiate several initiatives – including a Commission of Inquiry into the Education system that was already launched since July 2015. Sadly, that COI still has not submitted its report even though another Education Month has rolled around.
However the Minister noted the Cabinet  had already approved the  establishment of the National Education Council (NEC) which would accept all the recommendations from the “initiatives” – including the FOI – and craft a Strategic Plan for the sector that would feed into a Draft Education Bill that would be submitted to Parliament.
The point we would like to make is this inability to hit the ground running in education, which is not an isolated instance, but has come to typify the government’s entire spectrum of activity. Until the Government gets its act together and completes its Strategic Plan and Education Bill, all its initiatives such as this latest Education Month exhortations are in fact “ad hoc”. This will not do for a sector that even the Minister concedes is critical to all the other plans the  government and indeed the entire country hope to achieve.
While it is appreciated that there must be an analysis of a situation before a diagnosis can be made so that prescriptions can be specified, too much analysis can lead to paralysis. It is not as if the parties in the government has not been exposed to the challenges that confront the nation in all aspects of national life, including education. The APNU and AFC and their antecedents have been around for at least the last decade in Parliament scrutinising the previous administration.
Much had been expected from Minister Roopnaraine since he had been someone who had excelled in our educational system during our “glory years”. We hope he and the rest of the Cabinet can get their act together.

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