When it comes to education, less is more

12
Browne

When it comes to education, less is more

The Ministry of Education has released results of the Grade 6 national assessment. There is concern for those students who did not pass, and the officials are wondering what should be done to bring them up to the expected mark.

Has anyone ever stopped to consider that national assessments may actually be responsible for poor student achievement? I graduated from primary school in the 90s, and the very first national assessment I did was when I reached Grade 6.

We did not have any SBAs to do either.

Over the years, the primary school education curriculum has become overwhelming. In fact, many parents are complaining that the academic requirements of pre-school are burdensome!

Why are we pushing education down the throats of young children?

Our children are burned out and turned off from education by the time they reach secondary school.

Also, because the primary school syllabus is loaded, they don’t really learn anything – all they do is drill and cram facts for the next exam.

We should not be surprised that grades at CSEC are often undesirable, because by the time children get to secondary school they are demotivated.

One of the best education systems in the world is that of Finland.

They don’t start academics before the age of 7! Imagine that – age 7! They don’t need to know how to read before that age.

Our Ministry of Education in Antigua and Barbuda is giving children exams at the age of 7! Some primary schools are teaching kindergarten students to write in cursive!

In addition, Finnish students aren’t required to write any national exams before the age of 16.

Optometrists have found that starting academics early increases a child’s risk of developing nearsightedness.

Nearsightedness increases a person’s risk of developing more serious eye diseases that can cause blindness.

Finland also abolished homework. I know this point is controversial, but many parents are complaining that the amount of homework children get in primary school overwhelms them.

At least have an age/class limit – no homework for children in kindergarten to grade 4, for example.

The Ministry of Education laments the failure of some students, but it is the policies of the Ministry of Education that directly cause these failures. A massive change is needed urgently!

Harriet Tubman

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12 COMMENTS

  1. It is true that school children today are more burdened than in the past and yet don’t produce any better results so some reconsideration should be given to some of the unnecessary work they are given. I have observed that sometimes for Math too much time is spent on concepts that they have already grasped or that don’t matter very much in the long term and not enough time is spent practicing the more difficult problems and the concepts that are more essential for their futures. SBAs for Primary school children seem unnecessary to me, but perhaps the teachers can be asked if they are useful. The multiple assessments before Grade 6 don’t seem particularly useful since the schools just teach however they were going to teach anyway. As long as the children know what they need to by the time they “graduate” grade 6, why should every school do everything in exactly the same way at the same time? They can adapt to their particular students and circumstances instead and just generally have the students around a similar place at each level.

  2. Everything said in this article is true.

    No longer do small children learn to sing and recite and speak. They are too busy doing SBA’s and Secondary school work. Even 6 year olds have a full week of exams. Wha can go so? Total nonsense!
    Now they want to herd them into groups of rejects? We are destroying our children. How could our parents sit back and allow this craziness to go on?
    Every one of the top officials in the Ministry of Education SHOULD BE FIRED FOR FAILING OUR CHILDREN. For turning them into exam dunces.

  3. The world has changed since many of us were in highschools, yet the methods of delivering instructions (teaching) remain pretty much the same as it was way back then. Dry erase boards have replaced to old “blackboards”, and in some cases we have a few Smart boards here and there. But pretty much the same. Children and being pushed to have high marks (mostly for bragging rights of the family) but are not really equipped for life/the world. How many. If us have used a quadratic equation or Pythagoras’ theorem since we left THAT class? .Nott bashing the teachers/educators (they mean well and are grossly under paid) but we need to seriously take a look at education reform to better equip “the future”

    • Using new technology does not mean that children are learning any better. Lots of new technology is used and the results are sometimes the same or worse. Schools that use a lot of technology don’t have any better results than other schools that don’t. On, the other hand, simple methods from the past such as recitation in class aided memory of basic facts but have been thrown out. Yes, children need to learn to use new technologies but they still need to learn basic facts so that they can use the new technologies usefully and correctly. Technology changes all the time and quickly becomes obsolete. However, facts last a lifetime. What is needed is proper review or reflection or assessment of both new and old methods to keep the old methods that work, and test and then add new methods that also work.

  4. I wish we would this eager to teach them about God and his word, After all this is the only thing that would matter in the end. I pray God open our eyes to see.

  5. @ both
    Please note that my comments were in regards to method not necessarily material being taught. I agree that technology can change and even become obsolete… Facts too can change. Also please note that I made reference to education reform AND to better equip “the future”. If the children/youth are the future, should we not invest in them a little better? Not every child will be academically inclined AND even those who are may opt to pursue a career where they can be more hands on instead of sitting behind a desk. We shouldn’t hold every child to the same expectation as another, as the analogy goes, you cannot judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree

  6. @Yoda,
    Ok, so, you are one of the proponents of shifting the content of the educational system in a more practical direction. The problem with that is that the theory is also very important for sustaining the modern world. Not everyone goes on to use certain Math concepts but some do. It is impossible to know which students will go on to use what knowledge so everyone needs to be taught all of the foundational concepts in the early stages such as primary school. By the end of secondary school, students should have a better idea of their interests and abilities so perhaps they don’t all need to learn every advanced tooic. However, things can change in life so better to learn what you can while you can in case you need to switch professions later in life and need the info. So, I don’t agree with removing the theory without a lot of thought and consideration of the entire education system. Antigua alone cannot just change the content because the entire world education system has a certain progression and students need to learn certain facts at each stage. However, I do agree that more practical things should be added to student learning. The question is where and when. Not everything has to be a subject for marks e.g. there could be after school clubs that meet twice a week that students must attend to immerse themselves in practical projects that make use of the theory that they learn in regular classes. Or, there could be short summer programmes that they join one year during secondary school etc. to work on projects. (They still need their rest though.) Students could be given a choice between traditional areas such as construction, organic farming, simple entrepreneurship and modern technology projects in computing, environmental protection etc.

  7. I agree with most of the points raised by this writer. We need a paradigm shift! It’s not all about excelling in exams, cramming the most notes and bagging the most subjects or making it to the “top secondary schools” ! We need to focus on a culture of integrity, kindness, concern for each other and our environment. The focus should be on nurturing young minds to face the challenges of the future by using their knowledge to make intelligent life decisions. Might I ask, where is the concern for the mental health of our children and our teachers? In all the hustle and bustle to bag as many high passes as possible in a one-day exam, do we really care? What principles are we really propagating in the minds of our youth? Is it all about stroking egos? When five or more years of preparation is judged on the merit of one examination, is that really fair? Are our assessments as valid as they should be? Do they truly reflect what was taught in every classroom? What measures are in place to ensure consistency and validity? How do we cater for multiple intelligences? Students are not sponges, they come with gifts, talents and abilities and varying levels of motivation.

  8. It depends on what is meant by less is more
    Early Childhood Education is the foundation of Education
    Here, if the child are taught the way the ought, will do well
    Brain development is achieved through repetition
    Hence the reason for reciting nursery rhymes, songs, poems, fingerplay, etc
    They learn to recognize, identify and repeat
    Their fine and large muscles are been developed through the frequent activities: such as tracing in sand, flour, cornmeal, assembling puzzles, starting of with jumbo sizes and few, then increase as they reach mastery, etc
    Molding: playdough, dumpling dough and other materials
    They can walk on balance beam so develop their balance.
    Early Childhood Education is preparation for school
    Children at this age: 0through to 8 years old learn through play
    Their attention span is been developed through the activities given, ensuring you start off small and slow and as you see their growth. So long as they are progressing you can increase the length of time. It is vitally important for parents, caregivers and teachers to know and apply the development level when assisting.
    It will amazing how much you can do with these young minds with a carved you schedule to equip them to function at their ultimately best. No Child Left Behind is more than just saying it! It entails work for the planners.
    Let return to laying a proper foundation for these young minds. Our children will thrive! There is no unteachable Child. They just learn differently. A different pace, a different staretegy, a different method. Just find the niche and work with them as best as you can. God only ask us to give of our best. So seek His wisdom, knowledge and understanding. He will never mislead us. At the end of the day, it is His work we are doing. So do it and leave tye rest in His hands.
    Our future generation!
    God is depending us to do our vest at every step
    We will have to give an account
    May we forge forward to make the necessary changes in the Education system in Antigua and Barbuda. We are a community! We can do it! Let’s lend a help hand to help a Child, a teacher, and a parent, one step at a time. We can and we will! Blessings on each of us! “A Wing of Change is Blowing!”

  9. This article is spot on! Here are a few more recommendations for the new school year, if anyone in the MOE sees this.
    1. Abolish the grade 6 national assessments. It’s just too much pressure on the children for their entire years in primary school to come down to one exam. I have heard of some of our children having anxiety and panic attacks. What in the world are we coming to when this much pressure is placed on such young ones to perform for a single grade and then measure their worth/value by this one test score?
    2. Abolish SBA’s. The parents are left to do the work anyways because most of the students don’t understand what is required because, by the time they give the SBA’s, many of the concepts are still not taught to students for them to be ready to do them. When I attended primary school many, many years ago, I didn’t have SBA’s to do, and it didn’t affect my education negatively. I ended up with a quality university degree with honors in my field of study. SBA’s are just more work, and there is more evidence against their benefit than for it. It’s just not helping. Those in authority need to humble themselves, admit it’s not helping students, and DROP it now!
    3. MOE needs to adopt the model they used during the pandemic in 2020, when they didn’t have national exams but instead used the grades from the schools. I believe students and parents will be more responsible, it will be a better reflection on the students’ abilities, and less pressure will be placed on them.
    4. If the MOE wants to continue to assess students’s performances through exams, perhaps they can set exams to take place at the end of each term instead of just one and take the scores for the three terms.
    5. STOP blaming teachers and take responsibility, MOE. The failure is directly related to your policies and decisions, which are terrorizing students around national exam time in Antigua and Barbuda.
    6. Many of the exams are just too long! The students are burned out. Set shorter tests if you insist on continuing the national exams.
    7. Band the use of devices in school, espcially for primary school children and enforce it.

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