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Youth Senate weighs in on education reform

Reducing the number of children leaving school without qualifications is among a raft of recommendations to transform education as youth senators debated the subject at United Nations House.

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The senators have also called for greater emphasis on teacher training, parental guidance, a growing dropout rate, and better environmental conditions on school properties, among other suggestions.

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In the debate, one of the activities of Youth Week , ‘Independent’ Youth Senator Lianna Williams expressed concern about the number of students who scored below 30 per cent in the Common Entrance Examination and the fact that fewer students were completing secondary school.

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She declared: “Our current system of standardised testing is not really working for us. Statistics show that 27 per cent of Common Entrance students score 30 per cent or less on the exam, and only 69 per cent of students complete secondary school.

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Youth senators during today’s debate. “If children do not learn in the traditional academic environment, we have to look at alternative ways to assess their abilities.”

She also noted that the dropout rate from secondary schools was higher among girls than boys and suggested that any educational model Government develops should be in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Another youth senator, Sarah Holder, spoke of the difficulties some students faced who came from “at-risk” communities

She said: “How can you expect a child to pass all their subjects when their parents cannot help them with their homework because they cannot read and write; their mother is working three jobs and has four other children to support, and they live in a home in an ‘at risk’ community where there is always conflict?”

She said parents should be trained to handle their children, and called for “patient teachers who do not just come to work to get a paycheque, but truly understand that there is more to life than academics, and who encourage their students to speak up and share their opinions”

Senator Holder also touched on the physical learning environment, saying that more green spaces, less littering and brightly coloured classrooms would create a more inspiring experience for the children

Youth Senator Tyrell Payne said: “Children cannot learn properly in an unhealthy environment.”

GovernmentSenators Shacoby Riley and Kobie Broomes spoke on the issue of teacher training

Senator Riley remarked: “In Finland, teachers at both primary and secondary levels must have Masters degrees, and the current two-year course our teachers take at Erdiston Teacher Training College is inadequate to meet our country’s needs

“I believe that a higher level of training should decrease or eliminate the indifferent attitude some of our teachers display.”

Youth Senator Broomes said: “Teachers and school administrators should be hired on a contractual basis, as is the case in India, and some countries in South America and Africa

“And the same way children receive continuous assessment, teachers should be subjected to the same

“We need to create a model that works for us, and while it can incorporate some of the features from places like Singapore or Finland, we cannot adopt everything wholesale from those markets as we have to look at our unique situation here.”

Youth Commissioner Deborah Thornhill, the Ministry of Youth Affairs officer in charge of the Youth Parliament, told Barbados TODAY the young parliamentarians’ contributions have been recorded to be sent on to official Parliament

Thornhill said: “The good thing about this topic is they would have benefitted from training at the Ministry of Education, the Barbados Community College and the Samuel Jackman Prescod Institute of Technology, so they would have gained a lot of factual information

“Also, we have a rapporteur who records everything, and the papers are submitted to Parliament, so they can get to review all that is shared by the youth parliamentarians; we do our part and leave it up to them.”