Here’s an interesting fact. A child starting school in September 2015 will graduate from university in 2032. Adding a Master’s degree or a PhD, or some professional designation, will make the date of entry into the work force later by a number of years. That child will likely retire from his or her chosen career in 2075. Who can imagine what will be going on in the world then?
In a way, parents and teachers need to be able to look into the future to guide their children on the right path in life.
But there’s a problem. With all the changes going on in the world and, of course, in this island nation of ours, I don’t think any of us have a clue about what the landscape of the employment world will be like in 2032, or even what careers will be available in The Bahamas to a child starting school this year.
So this question hangs over our heads, what are we educating our children to do?
We live in a world now in which information is so readily available we don’t need students who simply regurgitate facts. What the world needs now are minds capable of weighing and analysing facts in order to think originally and draw unique conclusions. That makes me think that our education system must waste no time becoming more focused on fostering and stimulating critical thought.
Additionally, education must foster the kind of interpersonal relationships that nurture cooperation and team building. One only need listen to the daily talk shows to determine that, for the most part our educational system, too date, has produced bundles of persons who are incapable of clear, rational, independent, and creative thought.
We all have our own strengths — in a diverse world, the blending of strength and weakness in a team is capable of making the whole stronger than the sum of its parts.
Classrooms need to be places of thriving creativity. These classrooms must allow for student-led exploration of their own interests or with their interests utilised as a jumping-off point for additional learning.
For example, the fascinating Tongue of Ocean can be used as a way to learn about geography, history and science. An interest in cooking can lead to learning about language, maths and science. This sort of classroom demands teachers who are flexible and understand the way young minds resist being confined to one tiny stream in the ocean of knowledge. The use of technology to connect Bahamian students with those across the globe is an idea whose time has come.
Imagine connecting an art project with children in another country. Imagine school gardens that can be used to teach children about sustainability and our reliance on the world around us for food.
If we want to increase Bahamian employment in the international businesses on our shores we must increase the number of Bahamians who go on to higher education from the public schools — a number that probably sits at less than 33%.
Simply spending more on education will obviously not prove successful as we currently outspend virtually all Caribbean countries.
At the same time we must also acknowledge that the traditional four-year college is not the right fit for every single student. Our country needs electricians, plumbers, masons, auto mechanics and the like and we need to allow our students whose interests and skills lie in these areas to access the kind of technical education they will need for success in their field. We also need Bahamian workers in the hospitality field as the service we provided in the heyday of tourism kept visitors returning again and again. Bahamian friendliness and culture gave many of us a rewarding career in this field, and we need to keep that alive in the population.
What we need from our education system is a model that stimulates creative thought. We have little idea what the future holds for us, but we do know that if our children are creative they will be much better prepared as they will be able to cope with change at a faster rate than we currently are able to do.
And don’t forget, a better education means a #Stronger Bahamas. That must mean that, among other things, our political system will improve. Not only does a smarter population mean smarter politicians, it surely means a public better able to judge who to vote for and why.