Home Letters We should teach only math and language at primary schools
Einstein once said that the true definition of crazy is when we do the same thing over and over expecting different results.
Therefore, we should not be shocked that, yet again, half the country’s children writing Common Entrance failed miserably in Math and English. We should be appalled. Imagine how each failing student this year will struggle throughout secondary school if they even attend one, with no real knowledge of the bigger concepts being taught there. Imagine how many will eventually drop out after having had enough of confusion.
We especially should not be shocked though that in the other subject areas like science and social studies, way more than half failed. As we all know, without knowledge of language and math, little or nothing else can be learned.
Or do we not know this? How come we have not done things differently to ensure that all our children can, at the very least, read and write, instead of only half of them, as is the present situation?
In the first place, why on earth are they being taught all those extra subjects at the Common Entrance level? Why are most of them fetching around what seems like entire libraries in their backpacks and taking extra lessons? Just to fail and barely pass?
Our young children’s training should first and foremost be focused only on the two main things in which they need solid foundations – math and language. We teach mathematics from an early age because it provides opportunities for developing important intellectual skills in problem-solving, deductive and inductive reasoning, creative thinking and communication. We teach language from an early age so that children can have a means of seeking new information of all types with their new ability to read and do research. Most employers will not hire persons who have no real command of math and English.
Without math and language, a child is stuck. All other subjects are incomprehensible without them.
I don’t think any other country focuses on more than just math and language at the Common Entrance age. Why should we? We can’t continue to tolerate half of our children failing math and English just so that we can ensure that way less than half of them could learn social studies and other subjects. It’s not worth it. Why teach unnecessary subjects they are obviously failing miserably in, while firstly, neglecting to focus on the subjects they truly need to learn and then secondly, watching half of them fail in those important subjects year after year? We are truly crazy.
All the effort, energy, expertise and resources put into teaching those extra subjects, in vain, could be very well and rightly put into teaching math and English both properly and sufficiently. These two subject areas must never ever be neglected at that age. How can we learn science if we don’t understand math? How can we understand social studies if we can’t read? Science and social studies are subjects that can and must be taught only to students who are already proficient in math and language. If half of the students are not proficient in math and English then what’s the point in teaching those extra subjects to them? Don’t their grades in those extra subjects speak volumes? Why are we allowing this massively failing educational process to continue unchecked?
With a good English and math foundation, children can learn social studies and even rocket science with ease later on in any secondary school where those subjects should rightly be taught. And their eventual overall CXC pass rate will also increase tremendously across the country because they would all know how to read and understand the books they need to read and understand.
I have met way too many grown people in Guyana who don’t know math nor English even after having gone through primary and secondary school here.
Something is wrong.
Unlike, for example, Barbados, English is not our first language. We cannot assume that children in Guyana already know English when they start school. They don’t. They don’t speak English at home. Our native tongue is creolese. And, with its Hindi, Dutch, and Amerindian influences, it is very very different from English, which Africans adopted almost wholly. Unlike Barbados, we have way too many historical and present-day language influences to think we can afford to treat the teaching of English at the primary level as a casual affair. We can’t. English is the official language of Guyana and it makes no sense testing our children in English if they don’t know it. Even Barbadians, with their historically limited cultural diversity, completely avoid teaching anything but English and Math at the primary level. Which, in turn, accounts for their extremely high literacy levels and super professional population.
While our creolese is a beautiful language, English has to and must be focused on. Otherwise what has been happening will continue to happen – we will continue to fail our children and our nation. The most successful students at the Common Entrance level are bilingual. They speak fluently in both English and creolese. All of our children should be, at the very least, bilingual. Math and English (and perhaps Spanish for obvious reasons) should be all that is taught in our primary schools.
As a society, we fit Einstein’s definition of crazy almost exactly. I implore us as a nation to grab some sense. We have way too many illiterate people in our country to not want to take immediate action. Illiteracy is the biggest contributor to our poverty and crime issues. This is not just a matter for our governments to look into. This is our issue. And we must collectively call for a change regardless of which Government is in place. We must want that change before we can convince any Government to provide it.
And no, it’s not enough to ask parents to work more closely with the children. The parents themselves do not know math and English. Our education system failed them too. And we certainly don’t want children being beaten to study harder.
John Milton Fraser