Keep education, politics separate

Hopefully the letter of Monday, 16 February, ‘Where are education results?’ concerning a fairy tale and what the writer reckons has been happening in the real world in our education system over the past few years heralds a return to some semblance of reality with regard to charting our education advancements. Well, at least one devoid of naive and fawning editorial commentary, and frantic efforts at political self-aggrandisement.

I agree completely with the writer’s sentiments and only wish he and others had ‘shouted out’, so to speak, a while back. Surely there are others who have suspected that things were not quite as they were being portrayed in regard to our education system. And that a desire to ‘look good’ at all costs became the heart of things.

I had the honour of working in our education system for some 24 years, an experience made all the richer and enlightening for having worked at primary, middle and high school levels, and across the complete range of abilities.

Frankly, I have had real cause on numerous occasions since my retirement in July 2005 to wonder if the newspaper and political commentary that was so vigorously condemning our education system was about an entirely different place altogether.

I simply did not recognise what was being described, neither the schools I had worked in nor the system as a whole, and concluded that what was being fed to the public was about as plausible as the fiction that prior to 2005 nothing of any worth had been accomplished in the recorded history of the development of education in the country; or that I had been working in a school system that the Compass in an editorial in September, 2005 described as being ‘foul’; or that the theoretical approach to teaching and learning based on the small schools concept was now ‘proven’ (as claimed in a government pamphlet).

There are few things more important to any society, and indeed more emotionally-charged, than the well-being of its young and a child’s education (alongside its health) are undoubtedly the basis for this provision. It therefore follows that all persons involved in education must primarily be committed to placing the child’s best interests ahead of their own, and that this commitment must be genuine and not a means to some kind of personal achievement, although of course this might be a rewarding and humbling consequence.

In my opinion one should never, not only from a moral perspective but also for reasons of practicality and efficiency, bring political games and one-up-man ship anywhere near the field of education. It is just too important and crucial for society’s well-being. And yet, sadly, in my opinion this has been most evident for the past several years.

Look, this small schools concept may prove to be of benefit to our children. And if it proves to be then any individual who happened to be mighty impressed with one professor’s presentation in London and decided it was to be the future (or at least the whole foundation for education in Cayman) will undoubtedly be remembered favourably. This is a good and wholesome outcome, if a little unconventional.

It is just that this cannot possibly happen right now, or even before May. It will take decades of research to establish the worth of this unproven approach to teaching and learning (to be educationally proven it must be overwhelmingly accepted as being of benefit and in widespread use).

Not exactly politically convenient or at all personally advantageous, I know, but then we are not living in a fairy tale, are we?

John Flatley