Fix education; all else will fall into place


PRIME MINISTER Dr Keith Rowley is right. We are a violent society. (And the Archbishop is wrong. We do need to criticise our society. As we should criticise the Church itself.)

The knee-jerk reaction to violence is to call for better policing and better prosecution and more jail time. Counter-intuitively, and nicely documented by a number of research studies, none of these works for a major reduction in violence. But it is easy to trot these out. When you are about to hit your partner (usually a woman), you do not think of the justice system.

We created our violent society. And here is my old refrain: we fostered our violent society in schools by failing to provide our children with an education focused on character development. Instead we remain seduced by the inherited colonial British system. It does not work for Britain these days; it won’t work for us.

As we remain faithful to this failed system, we focus instead on the few academically inclined and drill them to pass standardised examinations and get scholarships. And perpetuate the myth of ‘prestige’ schools, which do so little for the proper education of almost 20,000 children.

If we fail to fix education, we fail to fix violence in the society. And we can prattle on all we like about better policing and more jail time-it won’t make much of a difference.

The key to a less violent society is better education with a sharp focus on character development, and not topping exams.

A new Commissioner of Police will not reduce the level of violence and venality in the society. But a transformed education sector can, if it focuses on character development and not getting a national scholarship.

Women armed with pepper spray will not reduce violence against women. But fixing education can. If it focuses on character development and not getting a President’s Medal.

Asked what a good education is, the late Sir Ken Robinson, a global leader in educational transformation, said: ‘To enable students to understand the world around them and the talents within them so that they can become fulfilled individuals and active, compassionate citizens.’ I offer a shorter answer: ‘To develop a people of good character.’

Our schools in T&T fail at this mission.

Teachers still teach to the test, drilling children to pass examinations and get scholarships-not to build character.

We develop our sense of gender equality in schools. We develop our sense of compassion in schools. We develop our capacity for empathy in schools. We develop the skill for conflict resolution, without resorting to violence, in schools. Remember, children spend most of their time in school.

Yes, we need to talk about gas prices. (They do need to be increased.) We need to talk about spyware. (But know we are spied on by both PNM and UNC governments.)

But if we fail to talk about a radical transformation of our education system, we will remain a venal, violent society, lacking in compassion. Nothing else matters.

Fix education, and we fix all else.

Dr Everold Hosein political leader Green Party of Trinidad and Tobago