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After viewing the telecast and listening to the various presentations and the announcement of the CAPE, CSEC and other CXC examination results, I am motivated to make the following observations.
I am in full agreement with the Registrar of CXC, who opined that the retention of the content of the various subject areas should not be seen as the only desirable and/or optimum outcome for the learners. The optimum outcome should include their acquisition of the skill of learning, so than in the rapidly growing expanse of knowledge they can continue to be relevant by being able to access and acquire new knowledge without which, even though qualified, they could become dated, and not quite up to the challenge/task. What I would wish to add is that critical thinking, problem solving, the application of knowledge in the determination of actions to be taken, and being creative trump the importance of the expansive retention of knowledge. This poses the question as whether the learning outcomes, as a whole, of our current students meet the standards outlined above, notwithstanding their quantitative achievements.
What also struck me was the reported low percentage performance in Literature and Social Studies, when compared with most of the other subjects. Literature as a subject is the reflective crucible of human existence, albeit abstract. A society that pays little or no attention to Literature, formally or informally, is one that has embarked upon a journey without the use of a compass that can lend to the determination of the best path to be traversed rather than being the victim of trial and error. Education, ultimately, is about the adaptation of knowledge in the course of navigating through one`s environment and the determination of the uses of the resources that that environment provides for the purpose of enabling and enhancing the quality of life. The knowledge and skills to be derived from an exposure to the study of Literature is a compass in life`s quagmire, without which the voyager may be clueless. Being clueless is antithetical to being educated (knowledgeable and cognitive).
Equally important is Social Studies. Life`s journey is relational as much as it is self-discovery. There is no life unrelated to interactions with others. Those interactions are best managed if one understands oneself. Social Studies provides an opportunity to study relatedness and the positioning of the individual in that relatedness. Without an exposure to Social Studies the individual is deprived of anthropological and historical information that helps the individual to determine his or her identity and that of others, and in so doing be in a better position to relate to others, which relating is an unavoidable reality of human existence. This relating would be at various levels: familial, community, national or international level.
Given the aforementioned my abiding concern is that the results of the CXC examinations reflect the candidates’ lack of interest, or below average performance, in subjects that are critical to making knowledge useful to human existence and endeavors. This presents a challenge, if we are to agree that education is not about certification. Education is about the preparedness to face the challenges of life and human development at all levels. The matrix of preparedness would be incomplete if Literature and Social Studies (History) are omitted, since they provide the basis for, and the framework within which, knowledge has to be applied if it is to serve the purpose of human sustainability and development.
A parting word: the emphasis on STEM to the exclusion of the Arts may in some way be a fault line of the formal education system. It reflects an appreciation deficit of what education really means and how it should be pursued. Let there be STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) rather than just STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).