Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education Youth and Information, Dr Grace McLean, in a recent report painted the stark reality of the effect of the pandemic on the educational achievements of our children. While a fall out was anticipated, the extent came as a surprise in that, despite the valiant efforts of stakeholders so many children have failed to meet the national standards. While the academic fallout from lack of face-to-face classes is cause for concern, the fallout in social skills is another of the disconcerting realities that will come to haunt us. The looming question is how will we address this? The decision on an approach must be based on realities such as availability of resources, practicality, efficiency and effectiveness, economic sense and the psychological and social implications on the students. I think we should start on the premise that in this pandemic every child has been left behind.
Is there any research done to assess the effectiveness of national remedial programmes prior to the pandemic? If so, I hope the findings are such that they rubbish my claim that we lack the necessary resources to continue with general schooling and institute an effective remedial programme simultaneously. The flipping of the script which shows that more students are performing below the national standards than the number performing at or above requires serious consideration. Do we send the students on to the next grade and institute a wide scale remedial programme or do we have students repeat their current grade and institute enrichment programmes for those who have met or who are near the mastery standards required? I would vote for the latter. Ask any general education teacher why the former will not work. Should age or achievement determine the transition?
If we transition students to the next grade level with remediation both teachers and students would be under tremendous pressure because they would have to be trying to cover two years work in one year. The anticipated questions and appropriate responses are – So what about transitioning those who have gained near mastery? Think of the psychological impact this will have on their peers who will remain in the same class. So my child should be held back for those underachievers? Your child will not be held back, your child has not exhausted the curriculum for that grade. Your child will be expanding his/her knowledge and skills in an enrichment programme that emphasises creativity, problem solving critical thinking etc. So how do we treat what has been done since the start of online schooling? was it a waste of time? Let us treat it as a test run. It was not a waste of time. We have learned invaluable lessons which we will use to inform our policies and practices from here on.