Touria Prayag's Blog

L’express Weekly, 1 October 2010

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on October 1, 2010

EditorialClick here to read l’Express Weekly

When everyone looks the other way

With the visit of Mrs. Diane Palmer from Cambridge, some lobbies started raising their heads again. “We have to do away with Cambridge and go for our own exams,” they proclaimed. These demands are not entirely illegitimate. And welcome they would have been in a country where we have full trust in our institutions. But do we?

Without going into the difference between perception and reality and without surveying all our institutions, let’s stick to the educational sector. And, without going too far back, let’s look at last week alone, the week when children were admitted to primary schools.

The euphoria which must have been experienced by many parents whose children were accepted in the so-called star schools, in areas where you would never catch them living, contrasted with the feelings of many disappointed families whose children live in the catchment area but were denied these schools. And the phenomenon is nothing new. Year in and year out, it is the same folklore. And year in and year out, the successive ministers of Education have been looking the other way. Yet, it is so easy to control: find the culprits, send a strong message and everybody will toe the line.

Of course, those of us who have been in education for any length of time know that a child whose parents have a minimum level of education learns substantially more at home in the early stages than he does at school no matter in which area the school is. Educators also know that a child who grows up in an environment where all problems are solved through a phone call will not develop a culture of self-reliance and hard work as easily as one who learns from a very early age that s/he has to work for everything s/he gets. And it is no secret for anyone that our children acquire their learning from what we do rather than from what we preach and that when our words are not supported by acts, we end up sending conflicting messages which may put the child in a situation of extreme confusion.

Still, hundreds of parents every year falsify their bills and use all their contacts so that their children can sit on school benches destined for other children who will be sent to less prestigious schools to make room for them.

More than the difference that a school might or might not make in the life of a child, it is the sense of injustice that a child learns to feel from a very early age which is intolerable. And instead of addressing these problems first and giving a general sense of equity, we look the other way and try to show how much we care for the underprivileged by locking them into a linguistic system we would never opt for when it comes to our own children.

If I cannot trust a system at the beginning of the cycle; if some get what they do not deserve at the start of their primary education; if phone calls continue to move mountains, why should I trust that things will be any different at any other level? So until things change, let Cambridge continue. They are objective. They are fair. And they give us the international recognition that we need. The minister of Education himself argues, “To maintain trust, we cannot ‘Mauritianise’ exams.” I couldn’t agree more. But what will the minister do for us to maintain the same trust in the fairness of our own educational system?

weekly@lexpress.mu

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