Human rights, equality and diversity

By Dr Selwyn R. Cudjoe
December 20, 2021

Dr. Selwyn R. CudjoeDespite its fancy-sounding title, “Human Rights, Equality and Diversity: An Inquiry into the Right to Equal Access to Education with Specific Focus on the Under-performance of Schools in Port of Spain and Environs”, the children in this area (mainly Africans) will be condemned to educational backwaters even as the Ministry of Education (MoE) continues with its anachronistic approach of not-educating our children.

While I was impressed by the amount of data the committee pulled together on the under-performance of schools in the area, I am not too sure that at the end of the exercise we are any closer to solving the problem of educating our children who, as the document said, are underperforming and underachieving.

Anna Singh, director of Curriculum Education, informed us that “we do not define schools as ‘underachieving’ and more so on the premise that such levels of achievement or underachievement can [or is it cannot?] be assessed using terminal exams… What we believe that quality education speaks to and achievement speaks to, is the holistic development of the child in terms of looking at where their needs are, and assisting or intervening to make sure that those needs are addressed across the board.”

If you cannot evaluate a pupil solely by terminal exams, how else can we define the abilities of those pupils who inhabit these under-performing and underachieving schools in these areas? Charlene Hayes was instructive in this regard.

She stated: “If one is basing underachievement on SEA results, one has to be certain that the SEA is a fair assessment… This is a contradiction to the curriculum, which for the entire primary school career is based on the holistic development of each child to their potential. However, it seems that all is dropped for a 100-metre dash SEA. What happens to catering for multiple intelligences we speak of, including technological skills as is needed at present in this remote environment?

“Many of these principals stated that there would be no question of underachievement if the following were included with equal weighting: sports, drama, music, character education and citizenship.”

If a child is more than a terminal exam (the SEA), then most of the committee’s attention should have been placed on how to de-emphasise the terminal examination and include the other intelligences to better evaluate our pupils. Yet, nothing in the recommendations speaks to this issue.

Reading this report, one gets the notion that we are dealing with communities whose children are a bundle of mental pathologies, not normal children who may be subjected to the kind of disruptions with which many children are faced. These children are seen as abnormal beings who are subject to trauma as a result of where they live, the poverty which they undergo, and parents who do not particularly care about their well-being. In other words, they are all psychologically damaged, special pupils in need of special programmes.

Hayes also noted the “low level of interest and motivation of teachers” in these areas. One does not see any emphasis on this point in the report. If these pupils, like their teachers, are so lacking in interest and motivation, how come they are so efficient at using modern technology, particularly their use of cellphones, as their schoolmates in Caroni and St Ann’s?

Might it not be that these pupils are adept at these technologies because these technologies interest them? Might it not be that how our teachers teach is not conducive to the learning of these pupils?

This is not to downplay the hardships caused by the pupils’ social environment or their parents’ lack of interest in the education of their children. I am only suggesting that more attention should be paid to the role of teaching in a pupil’s learning.

Singh commented: “There was insufficient staff to implement psychosocial, psycho-educational screening services for these pupils who live in communities with high levels of crime and violence.”

When asked how many pupils were provided with psychosocial and psycho-educational screening services, the MoE was unable to say. Psycho-education refers to “the process of providing education and information to those seeking or receiving mental health services, such as people diagnosed with mental health conditions (or life-threatening terminal illnesses) and their family members”.

This is a frightening situation. We are talking about the education of pupils in a community, yet all we can focus on is the “life-threatening terminal illnesses” of a pupil and a family, but we have absolutely no data on this matter. This suggests that if the terminal exam doesn’t get you, then terminal illness in the community will.

Last Thursday, Harvard University announced that it would not require the SAT or ACT scores for admission into its university, “adding fuel to the movement to permanently eliminate standardised test scores for admission to even the nation’s most selective schools” (NY Times, December 16). Critics of standardised tests in the US have argued: “that they are racially and culturally biased and do not reflect the true ability of many pupils, but instead their ability to pay for tutoring”. FairTest, an anti-testing group, says that 1,815 of 2,330 schools do not require this standardised test for admission.

If these standardised tests are falling out of favour with US schools, why are we holding on to this relic of a colonial past that condemns some of our best pupils to stunted intellectual lives?

Maybe the next hearing should concern itself with how to eliminate SAT and find another mechanism to evaluate pupils which allows them to be placed in schools where they can enjoy their human rights and the equality they deserve.

Isn’t it time that we realise “a mind is a terrible thing to waste”?

13 thoughts on “Human rights, equality and diversity”

  1. A psychoeducational assessment involves a standardized assessment of a child’s intellectual and academic abilities. It is administered by a psychologist or psychometrist and combined with clinical interviews, observations, and historical records to help understand how your child learns, and identify if and how they’re struggling. It measures overall aptitude and academic achievement around core skills, such as reading, writing and math. It involves a number of techniques, including pencil and paper activities, verbal responses, and the evaluation of motor skills (e.g., drawing, playing with blocks). The assessment varies based on a child’s age.

    The results can help the psychologist understand your child’s potential (i.e., if they are gifted or have a learning disability) and provide strategies to support them. During these assessments, other concerns are also evaluated, such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder or anxiety, and recommendations for your child are based on a combination of standardized test results and the evaluation of psychosocial and/or mental health issues. (From a BC school District Special education Manual)

    It is my suspicion that very many of the students in these schools learn differently. The traditional rote teaching and learning styles with conformity to traditional exams do not work in the education of these students. There is some evidence to support this theory since very often failing students of this system and area go on to excell in disciplines like art, music, sports and other artistic and technical ventures.
    An aggressive campaign to identify under performing students with average to above average intellectual abilities is rquired in these schools . This process would require motivated teachers who care about the futures of their students and who are willing to abandon the traditional teaching styles .
    Complete psycho educational testing for individual students followed up with instructional recommendations and examination modifications, based on the student’s Verbal and Performance strenghts and weaknesses, would allow the student to do better in traditional classroom and standardized tests.
    Having been involved in a project of this nature in a Canadian School District, I know this is very expensive. It requires many additional resources and dedicated individuals.

  2. Dr Cudjoe seems to be overly influenced by what is happening in the US when instead we should be tailoring our education system by the needs of T&T society. Another flaw in his arguments is that somehow we need to modify the education system in to cater to the few failing African students. A typical case of the tail wagging the dog.
    As I have mentioned previously on this forum, education starts early in life and in the home. Parents have a very important role in the success of their children by installing in them a work ethic, respect for elders and teachers and a willingness to devote the time and effort to achieve their goals.

    Starting from Primary School the State needs to devote the resources to ensure that there is a robust education system so that young people of all abilities have an equal opportunity to persue a career of their choice so they can earn a living and become productive citizens when they become adults.
    Every country needs educated and hardworking citizens in order to prosper.

    We need a Made in Trinidad education system borrowing the best from other countries as needed. Germany has an excellent apprenticeship system for technicians. In India, the Information Technology education model is among the best in the world. Similarly in other fields we can learn from the others.

  3. “Last Thursday, Harvard University announced that it would not require the SAT or ACT scores for admission into its university, “adding fuel to the movement to permanently eliminate standardised test scores for admission to even the nation’s most selective schools” (NY Times, December 16).“

    This is a process of deconstructing American education. The whole philosophy of equality will be more embraced by the Communist regime of Cuba, who during the early reign of Marxism on the island require fully qualified doctors to leave their practice and go help reap the harvest of sugar cane because the economy depended on it.

    Indian Americans from India are leading some of the major corporations in the US. The latest is Twitter CEO a young India man. The dying hotel chain in the 60s was transformed into a $60 billion industry managed by the Patel, family in America.

    India has one of the most rigorous education systemic the world. That system has produced an incredible amount of engineers. The lady who landed the craft on Mars is a woman name Swati Mohan who devoted over 10 years of her life to achieve that goal. Of course she is Indian. NASA is filled with them.
    Satya Nadella—-CEO Microsoft, Google CEO Sundar Pichai,
    Ajay Banga—-CEO MasterCard.
    There are many many more in corporate America…

    As the American education system die down. Indians with education from India are taking over corporate America. 30% of Fortune 500 CEO are Indians as of 2015. Considering they are 5.4% of the American population. 17.1% of US doctors are indians. And now there is an Indian/black Vice President.

    In the interest of equality and upward mobility of the various ethnic groups education has slumped to this backward trend. And yes a degree is a feel good exercise in equality rather than the rigours of academia that see lil Indian children dominate spelling B competitions in the US. Keep that up….

    1. India also has Affirmative Action for students… Our Good Professor, I am sure would never raise this in ‘his concern’ for ‘African Students’… (Forgive me, I did not read the whole article… it seems rehashed)
      BTW… Indians (Punjabis) are taking over the Trucking Industry in the US… an industry ran by your local Hillbilly, Bob, and Joe. That one I could not have imagined.

      1. Dr. Cudjoe wants more scholarships to be awarded to the brethren. The United Negro College offers more easily available scholarships to the brethren..

        This Ramk could be done by athletic prowess included in scholarship quest. So if John is a C student but is a good athlete he should be awarded scholarship which happens already but not by government funding.

  4. I don’t think that anyone is denying or refuting the abilities and value of traditional learners. Many students fit the lecture/recall/rote learning style and excell in this system. This does not mean that those who learn differently should be ignored by the system.
    The entire nation would benefit from the success of those African students to whom Dr. Cudjoe is referring. Improving failing schools will result in improved, educated citizens. Don’t we all want that?
    The Indian CEOs and numerous Trinis are extremely successful abroad because their education at home only provides a foundation which is expanded and broadened by foreign post secondary education requiring critical thinking,individual involvement, cooperative learning, problem solving and exposure to academic and creative areas which are absent from the traditional conditioning called education which they received at home.

  5. “If these standardised tests are falling out of favour with US schools, why are we holding on to this relic of a colonial past that condemns some of our best pupils to stunted intellectual lives?”

    There has to be standards. If you are building a house you have to put in place standards set forth by geometric designs. To lack precision would allow for a building to collapse. Or else any idiot can be a builder. It takes years of training understanding the laws regarding design. When my mother took the plants resembling the bamboo cut it and weaved it, then slap mud on it, she was not an educated woman but she learned from the elders. There she built our first kitchen. With chulaside and sticks she cooked us the best roti and other delicacies.

    The dumbing down of western education is prophetic. As we know in the last days the kings from the east will rise. China through its belt and road initiative is basically controlling the economies of several nations. Why? Because their academic standards are high.

    “ China has improved the quality of education through a major effort at school curriculum and other reforms. China’s Education Modernization 2035 plan is launched to set the direction for the development of the education sector from “capacity” to “quality”, and that the modernization of education should support the modernization of China.

    In 2020, the Ministry of Education has launched a pilot education program which will allow 36 top universities in China including Peking, Tsinghua and Fudan University, to select outstanding high school graduates who are willing to serve the country’s major strategic needs. Under the program, known as the Strong Base Plan, the universities will focus on enrollment in majors such as mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology that have been proved unpopular with students in recent years. Many students prefer to study in majors for high paying careers.

    In 2021, the Ministry of Education has introduced a number of reforms including the new standard for Chinese proficiency in international Chinese language education, and the teaching reform guidelines for PE and health education.”

    Could you see any of that happening in Trinidad? The highly intelligent is given the opportunity to push the country forward, in China. Jack*ses cannot move a nation forward, all they good at is braying. You need the brilliant people to lead the nation forward and in the process create opportunities for others. That comes out of strategic vision, planning and execution. The Chinese select students that have academic excellence and train them to push the nation forward.

    In India “ The recent National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 in India comes 34 years after the previous policy, announced in 1986 and revised in 1992. It took six years of work and consultations with thousands of educators, policymakers, and members of civil society. It was truly a democratic effort and is highly aspirational, aiming for India to “have an education system by 2040, that is second to none, with equitable access to the highest quality education for all learners, regardless of social and economic background.”

    India and China both have a policy on education that is forward thinking developmentally and strategically. In India case it was a long process of finding the right version of education moving forward. In China the thinking has been take the “cream of the crop” and create the future.

    What would TnT vision of education be post colonial? My guess is to copy the US system. There are no real thinking leaders in the current regime. KPB had a vision and executed it well. Let’s hope that there emerge thinkers instead of managers in this current regime.

  6. Swati Mohan aided in landing an Indian craft on Mars, according to Mamoo. Katherine Johnson was an African American mathematician. Her calculations of orbital mechanics as a NASA employee, were critical to the success of the first and subsequent U.S. crewed spaceflights.

    1. Here Professor… Personally, I think the debate needs to shift to how ‘Africans’ populated the planet.
      Imagine all up in Hawaii… anyway, India is just next door..

      But Professor, as one who is learned is Africana Studies, how, or rather, why are these topics escaping you… and all dem Black Professional athletes are avoiding these vaccines like the plague?

      Do AFRICANS need to Vaccinate against this OMICRON, Professor? Biden dem, and you too, Professor want to, well.

      Anyway… Do Africans have higher immunity to this variant…
      Since they are going berserk in Europe and the US..

      >Israel is set to offer a fourth dose of the Covid-19 vaccine to older people and healthcare workers to reduce the impact of an expected surge of infections driven by the Omicron variant—as South African scientists reported further evidence that the variant causes significantly less serious disease than earlier strains.
      South African researchers said they estimate the risk of hospitalization with Omicron is around 70% to 80% lower than with the earlier Delta strain, a promising sign that immunity from prior infection or vaccination offers substantial protection against severe illness.<

  7. “Maybe the next hearing should concern itself with how to eliminate SAT and find another mechanism to evaluate pupils which allows them to be placed in schools where they can enjoy their human rights and the equality they deserve.”

    The SAT exams is a testing bed on the road to academia. The next generation of leaders must show their aptitude for learning. The road towards excellence cannot be polluted by mediocrity or laziness. It must uphold the bright light of learning and intelligence to pave the way for a better society.

    Despite all the criticism SAT face it has produce young men and women of high repute. In my family there are 4 doctors all who went through SAT and opted for the scholarships available and today they are contributing to the health care system.

    Unfortunately politics has infected the scholarship system and now the move towards “equality” is gaining momentum. But what is equality? If I am doing better academically does that mean I am unequal? If I am able to attend a university and get a degree (which I did) does that make me unequal.

    In Singapore Le Quan was a mathematician and a brilliant one at that. He said the nation needs intelligent people to lead, it did not matter party, ethnic or political association. He found those people and made Singapore the gem of the east. Get the bottom feeders to lead and your nation will die.

    Those who are advocating for the dumbing down of the education system must be unpatriotic and self absorbed. No nation can move forward when intelligent people pack their bags and leave. As did many of my family who rise to lead corporations and were given the respect not afforded in TnT. All efforts must be made to stop the brain drain.

  8. “Might it not be that these pupils are adept at these technologies because these technologies interest them? Might it not be that how our teachers teach is not conducive to the learning of these pupils?”

    Children gravitate to technology like flies to molasses. The next generation in their 30s are hunkered down in their cave, not coming out but role playing in these incredibly fine tuned software. Those who produce such technologies are fully aware of the impact on this generation and keep their children away from it.

    Today children are at home literally spending hours playing games and not focus on studies. The brain is excited by the imagery and therefore there is a new kind of addiction, that is only now being understood.

    “ Video games are a billion-dollar business and have been for many years. In 2020, the revenue from the worldwide PC gaming market was estimated at almost 37 billion U.S. dollars, while the mobile gaming market generated an estimated income of over 77 billion U.S. dollars”. These games are controlling the lives of the next generation to the point of them staying home and not seeking employment. Boys are the notorious victims whilst girls are leading the way in education and high paying jobs.

    KPB understood that all children could not purchase laptops and for a few million dollars gave children the opportunity to access information at the finger tip. This was reversed and then reintroduced by the PNM. This is the wave of the future and all nations are either embracing it or trying to run from it…

  9. Sometimes the most brilliant minds do not shine in Standardised tests because they do not have standardised minds.
    Ask Albert Einstein ?
    The point is being missed here.
    The legitimacy of top academic traditional achievers are not being challenged or denied here. No one is advocating for changing the instructional or evaluation methods which are
    the pillars of their success.
    The “bottom feeders” as they are being referred here may have brilliant, diverse,unconventional minds which are not recognized or catered to in our education system. Make changes to facilitate the success of these students.The right educators know how to do it without “dumbing down” the system or the standards.

  10. As we celebrate Christmas under the cloud of a raging Covid pandemic. I would like to take the time to offer sincerest condolences to the families who have suffered loss. In my family 2 deaths and other relatives 3 deaths. Despite that we do have the lights up….

    Peace on earth goodwill towards all of humanity. May the Christ child be born in the manger of your heart today. This year has reveal to me how brief life really is on this mortal plane. The short breath away to eternity cannot be clouded in bravado, that it will not be me.

    Live the Christmas message by making peace with yourself and others. Our imperfections demand such of us. But most of all with your creator. Begin your day with a daily conversation. “All mighty God my creator, guide me this day in the pathway of righteousness. Let thy light shine and point the pathway before. You are my creator, you love me, and place me here at this time, I cannot and will not fail. I beseech you empower me with your grace this day, I am come to truly know you …..Amen.”

    Merry Christmas to all.

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