Concordat should be challenged

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Having heard the PM and the Minister of Education fervently address the need for education transformation in T&T, I immediately researched and prepared a seven-page submission, which I submitted to the designated email address, on Thursday December 3, one day before the deadline.

Alas, to this date, my contribution to the MoE has not been acknowledged, so I decided to provide a synopsis of my submission to readers. My submission to the MoE addressed the Concordat, SEA, curriculum reform, teacher education and technical and vocational education. However, in this letter, I will address only the Concordat.

I argued that if our education system was intended to prepare learners to be critical thinkers, to seek evidence in arguments, to recognise hidden agendas and to place value on the learners’ opinions, then we need to challenge the Concordat.

Among other things, the Concordat accords respective denominational schools the authority to object to particular books and apparatus that contradict the beliefs of their faith.

The particular religion of the denomination that owns the school must be taught exclusively.

We note that religions are based on doctrines that cannot be questioned or contradicted, hence reasoning is stifled and indoctrination occurs.

I strongly suggest that comparative religion be taught in schools.

This subject compares the beliefs, doctrines, practices, themes and impacts of the world’s religions, to bring about an understanding of various faiths that can facilitate appreciation of that multi-cultural aspect of T&T’s social environment.

The much-vaunted superior performance of some denominational schools in examinations, in my view, is a consequence of management and administration and not because of spiritual influences.

If the MoE changes its criteria for promotion of its operatives to emphasise merit, relevant qualifications and interests, instead of seniority, then we can improve management and administration of schools.

We need to revamp the approach to school supervision, using appropriately prepared principals, heads and teaching colleagues for mandatory clinical supervision. Qualified school supervisors should participate in providing oversight, staff development, actually sitting in classrooms, speaking to teachers, students, parents and preparing public reports on their findings.

In addition, there should be teams of independent assessors who can report on the standards of performance, climate and culture of each school with annual publication of reports.

I am advising that a division be established similar to the UK’s Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills). Their visits should last several days, during which they interact with parents, students, principals and staff. Their reports should describe the strengths and weaknesses of the school with advice on overcoming weaknesses.

These reports should be accessible to the nation.

If these guidelines are followed, it is my expectation that, over time, the label of “prestige schools” will become irrelevant and there will be less panic among the population in the assignment to secondary schools process. But as always, we must see whether our leaders have the will to act decisively.

David Subran PhD, (Education), MA Ed, BEd