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COVID & Education, What’s Next?

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In hindsight, it seems as if most educational systems are not geared towards education but rather towards preparing students for a test that evaluates their short-term memory retention so they can move on to the next level. Passing an exam in primary school determines which secondary school one attends, subject to one’s performance. Based on the school they attend, students might then be targets of stereotyping. A few years later another series of exams determine their viability of higher education. With this singular focus, pupils may enter high school with good grades but have difficulty reading. Others succumb to the stigma placed on them since the result day of primary school with this singular focus.  This singular focus sees university graduates enter the workforce with the inability to adequately manage the demands of the job because “cramming” for exams is frequently rated over having a sound foundational knowledge of the various subject areas.

Schools are reopening in Barbados amidst COVID-19 community spread. While this is of obvious concern, the motivation of the Ministry of Education is understandable. Exam season is here and online school has failed to effectively prepare the mass to pass. Or maybe the ministry is just reluctant to pursue any feasible implementation of alternative assessment even at the primary level.

Before COVID-19 in recent years there were a host of viruses such as SARS and H1N1 that were of near pandemic magnitude and in the past, there have been pandemics of similar proportions and impact. From this observation, one can assume that COVID-19 will not be the last. With that in mind, it is important to develop a system that will adapt to and remain resilient in the midst of a pandemic. Within the context of Barbados and some other regional states, the reactive implementation of online school was not enough as an effective replacement of face-to-face neither did it cater to some of the social issues masked by face-to-face classrooms.  COVID-19 has persisted over two(2) school years. It is indeed something new to the Ministry of Education and mistakes are expected as efficient programs are developed and improved. However, there seems to be no active evolution of the ministry’s policies over the period as it relates to education administration. This is of particular concern since this very situation is likely to repeat itself.

While the pandemic has created new challenges for the educational system it has also highlighted existing systemic problems. There may be no easy solution for these prevailing issues. Still, it is critical to develop new approaches however gradual instead of a continued insistence on obsolete methods that are not effective. 

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