Touria Prayag's Blog

L’express Weekly, 25 June 2010

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on June 25, 2010


Genuine empowerment              Click to read L’express Weekly

When it comes to the educational reforms announced both at primary/secondary as well as tertiary education levels, there is good news.  Or at least there are good intentions and a coherent logic behind them. But as we all know, good intentions, no matter how logical the thinking behind them may be, do not necessarily make for good decisions.

The figures the Mauritius Examination Syndicate churns out every year are enough to chill the blood of any parent thinking about sending their child to school. Of the children who join our schools every year, only 41% will get through Higher School Certificate (HSC)! Worse, 32% will not even get their Primary School Certificate.  Nothing to be proud of. Absolutely no room for complacency. I have therefore full sympathy with the two ministers’ declared intentions to get more students through HSC exams and the grand ambition of having one graduate per family. I am not questioning the aim.

Where I have a problem is the means suggested for getting there. Vasant Bunwaree seems to hold the view that anyone with a School Certificate (SC) should be allowed into HSC and Rajesh Jeetah intends to open the doors of our universities to every HSC holder, irrespective of the number of credits. Now, if our objective is to increase HSC holders and university graduates, that is fine. If the aim of a degree is to stand on stage, wear a gown and have photos taken with parents, then let’s please go ahead.

If, on the other hand, we aim to genuinely empower people through education, then we should think again. Because the aim of education is to produce people who have acquired sufficient knowledge to be productive citizens of society. What is being offered is a system where we will, one day, boast much improved but thoroughly meaningless statistics; a system where those who succeed will be no better off than those who used to be left behind. Many students will be encouraged to chase a degree which has little or no marketable value and which serves no other purpose than the frustration that it will not get them anywhere.

If we are serious about education, there is only one starting point: initiating research about the reasons why so many of our children drop out of the system every year. And it is only through tackling these that we will be able to lift children out of ignorance. Failure can only be addressed if its causes are known. Otherwise we would all be shooting in the dark.

Also, to genuinely empower people, one has to look around at countries where they have been able to reach out to students and offer them a second chance and a good education. Next-door to us, Australia is an excellent example where two programmes have worked wonders: the foundation programmes and the Technical and Further Education (TAFE) institutes. The flexibility they offer, added to the close monitoring of students’ progress, have helped thousands of students acquire a relevant education suitable to their needs. Our system cannot afford to continue to be a strait jacket. It needs to become sufficiently flexible to reach out to low achievers and late developers and provide them with the necessary tools to live up to their full potential when they feel ready to do so.

In civilized societies, children are not written off. They are offered different pathways while the level of education remains high. And this really has nothing to do with academic snobbery.


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