Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley is blaming the current education system for creating a conveyer belt of uneducated young gang members. And he believes it is time to start a conversation about it.
Speaking with members of the business community at Breakfast with the Prime Minister at the Hilton Trinidad in Port-of-Spain yesterday, Rowley lamented that significant amounts of young people pass through the secondary school system without learning anything. He blamed the automatic promotion of all children into secondary school as a main contributor to the problem.
“Because once we’ve made the decision that everybody goes to high school, the questions remain, what about those children who enter the secondary school system having not been readied in the primary system? When they get into the secondary school system, what is the curriculum that they are going to follow? Is it the curriculum of the primary school as a continuation? Or the curriculum of a secondary school that they can’t cope with?”
The Prime Minister said if these questions are not answered, this country will continue to face the issue of young men coming out of the education system totally unprepared for a responsible life.
“Those are the ones who largely end up in the clutches of the drug dealers and the smart men who organise gangs. And what is the skill they can carry? Criminal conduct.”
Dr Rowley asked the audience to remember a time when secondary school education was limited to a privileged few.
“There was no waste, everybody who get island scholarship in those days came out as contributing citizens. Today, everybody going to the system, the system is not ready for everybody.”
He said this is in turn frustrating the country’s educators.
The Prime Minister also scolded parents to take control of their children.
“And of course, we have a large chunk of parents who are not ready for parenting, even in taking responsibility for the child they send to the school. And too many of them believe the Government is responsible for that. The first responsibility for children is in the home, that is the first responsibility, and this country needs to go back to that,” Dr Rowley said to tumultuous applause.
In July 2000, the then Basdeo Panday-led United National Congress government announced its intention to implement universal secondary school education by September of that year. At the time, Kamla Persad-Bissessar held the post of Minister of Education. The government’s rationale was to accommodate the nearly 10,000 students who fail the Common Entrance Examinations annually.