Touria Prayag's Blog

L’express Weekly, 1 April 2011

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on April 12, 2011

Weekly 1 April

A topsy turvy world

We were not sitting on the edge of our chairs in anticipation
of any revolutionary measures to be announced by the
minister of Education at his press conference last Saturday.
And we did not uncork any champagne when we
came out. Yes, there has been a slight but steady improvement in the
CPE pass rate since 2004, though thinking that is enough to warrant
self-congratulation is rather misplaced in a country which still throws
over 30% of its children out of the system. But more than the system itself,
it is the cosmetic measures introduced which warrant our attention.
Of course, like his predecessors, Vasant Bunwaree did not dare go
anywhere near the sacred cow of the “catchment area” which leaves
our children with a deep sense of injustice from a very early age. Oh
no, perish the thought. Let the children who live near star schools walk
miles in rain and sun to get to the schools they have been allocated.
And let the children of those who are well-connected always stand in
the front of the queue. He has not attempted to reduce class sizes to
enable the teachers to give more attention to the pupils. That would not
do. Nine-year schooling is forever at the experimental stage. There is no
hurry. What we will retain one day of the minister’s stunt in Education
is the enhancement programme and the introduction of Creole as an
optional language as from 2012.
The enhancement programme did not exactly turn out to be a success
story: having kids sit in 40-pupil classrooms for eight hours a day, far
from putting an end to private tuition, actually institutionalized it and gave
the tuition wallahs great arguments to legitimize it. What Bunwaree has
achieved is to shift tuition from schools to various garages in the vicinity.
The introduction of Creole as an optional language now seems to be
the minister’s hobbyhorse. Forget about the haste which even the most
fervent advocates of Creole are opposed to. Forget about the 60 teachers
to be diverted to teach Creole when they could be used to reduce class
sizes. Forget about the training or lack thereof of these teachers. What
worries us is who will sit in these classes to learn Creole? Not many
parents we have met have signaled their intention to have their children
go down that route.
Vasant Bunwaree is probably aware of this, which is why he insists
that a campaign will start soon to convince parents to make this choice.
This sadly sends us back to 1984, when a Select Committee, presided
over by Jean-Claude de l’Estrac, recommended the introduction
of “Cultures and Civilisations of Mauritius” (CCM) as an option to
Oriental Languages at CPE level. This would, according to the committee,
allow children to be “aware of the rich cultural heritage of Mauritius
in order to preserve that heritage and encourage understanding and
mutual respect.” The proposal was rejected by the General Assembly on
the grounds, amongst others, that parents “would opt for CCM which
is linked with acquisition of skills, concepts or ideas directly related with
perception of scope for further studies, employment or the economic
importance of the subject.” In other words, the subject was rejected
because it was seen to be so good that parents were likely to opt for it!
Now we are offering a subject which parents may not want to choose
but resources will be put in place to ‘encourage’ them to do so. The
world has been turned on its head!


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