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WINN Exclusive: Teachers share their perspective for an improved Primary Education System in St Kitts and Nevis

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by Eulana Weekes

St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): Two Primary School teachers in the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis suggest that the primary education system in the country has a long way to go, calling on the government to improve the budget allocation so that more investments can be made in Education. Both teachers, however, chose to remain anonymous.

A female teacher with more than 12 years of experience told WINN FM on Sunday (May 29), that the classrooms are lacking the resources needed to teach students with different capabilities; and in this regard, teachers have to spend personal finances on learning materials in order to cater to the different needs of the children.

The second point raised was that there is no upward mobility for teachers. “There is no recognition for teachers that are exemplary at the job they do. It’s like you teach and teach and all your hard work goes in vain.”

In the teacher’s opinion, an appropriate policy is required to protect teachers. “There are rights to protect a child such as the White Paper. However, there is none for teachers.” She further questioned, “If a teacher is to be assaulted by a student or parent, what law is there to protect that teacher?” “The system is so focused on the students and none for the teachers that are tasked with guiding them for 7 to 8 hours per day.”

The White Paper the teacher referenced was a White Paper on Education Development and Policy to enhance the education system in the Federation.

In addition, a suggestion was made for students to be released from school earlier. The teacher said curriculums are getting heavier each school year and there is no provision to give teachers more time to properly plan for lessons. She said most times teachers have to take homework to prepare for the next day, which cuts into their personal and family time.

“Every party that has gone into government has failed the Ministry of Education. They don’t sit and talk with us the stakeholders as to what measures they can take to improve education.” The teacher concludes that the teaching force lacks motivation and where there is no motivation the children can suffer.

In another interview on Tuesday (May 31), a Graduate Trained Teacher similarly expressed her desire to see more resources available for both teachers and students. She also pleads for a more appealing extracurricular activities programme for primary school students.

“For example, there are a lot of children who do not have anything to do in the afternoons. So I am suggesting that they engage in extracurricular activities, especially things that can benefit them in the future. I think a lot of students are interested in things like cosmetology, hair braiding, sewing, and trades; so those are things I would like to see be implemented.”

She added that a sports academy with professional training can also assist with the wholesome development of the children.

The Graduate Trained Teacher further suggested the introduction of co-curricular activities for each grade level, which is specifically geared to Community Service outside the stipulated school hours.

“When it comes to the Co-curricular activities by each grade, I would say the Department of Education needs to introduce Community Service, even if it’s only just for grade 6 students; where they engage in community service, becoming philanthropist[s] which encourages volunteerism; so that when they go to high school and even university, the students can become more experienced in different areas.”

The teacher is also lobbying for STEAM to be a focus at the Primary Level. The acronym STEAM means Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics. Mathematics and Language are compulsory, but the teacher is suggesting that Science, Technology, Engineering and Arts be optional for the students.

“At the primary school level, they [education officials] like to say teach differentiated learning or teach like it’s a differentiated classroom, on the basis that it’s a mixed ability class; so rather than that, I would suggest, have teachers master these areas and have those same teachers teach the students because they will be more passionate. When one subject is your focus and that is an area of focus that you chose, rather than you being placed there, I think it will be more beneficial.” The teacher says, in regards to STEAM what will also come into play is, how the students feel going into the classroom to learn something that they too are passionate about.

The teachers expressed their desire to see the Government and the Ministry of Education work on fixing the inadequacies in the system, so that students will be more encouraged to learn, teachers will be more motivated to teach and parents too will be proud of and motivated by their children’s success.

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