The latest PNQ of the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly had the merits, Tuesday last, to place the spotlight squarely on the destituted lot that composed the Extended Stream six years ago when the Nine Year Continuous Basic Education scheme (NYCBE) was implemented. Although the Minister was acting on the advice of a posse of advisors and IVTB House cadres, a couple of primary school unions and the galaxy of education agencies (namely the MES, MIE, PSEA), the buck stopped with her, a past pedagogue, to ensure that all voices and opinions were heard as the contours of her educational shake-up would affect children, teachers and the country for decades to come.
Attention was drawn here from 2016 onwards and by secondary school unions that while holistic education and other objectives of her plans could not be objected to, the most nefarious aspect of that reform would leave nearly one-third of the students by the wayside in the Extended stream, unable to spell or write their names at CPE, and yet shoved upwards onto secondary studies they were obviously going to struggle with, even with an additional year to sit for the same National Certificate of Education (NCE) exams as their more academically-minded counterparts. That was a fiasco waiting to happen, a terrible tragedy for thousands of our youths, many already under the yoke of family and environmental problems, thrown onto the streets as failures of a merciless and anachronistic one-size-fits-all system.
Despite all the best efforts of dedicated teachers and extra support from concerned pedagogues, the disastrous outcome had to be admitted in Parliament: a 96.5% failure rate of the first batch of extended streamers at the NCE. Already under the stigma of failure at the CPE, they were now dubbed doubly as failures at the NCE after four more years of a system that they could not adapt to for multiple reasons. The fate and future of an accumulated 12,000 children to date is also unknown, a worrying thought when we know what risks they might be exposed to. Those who devised, pushed and imposed such an intellectual and pedagogic absurdity have some answering to do.
While there will be cries raised all round to urgently review the Extended stream, there is in essence a concept and design flaw in the NYCBE that needs to be addressed more than by simply tweaking teaching loads, methods or, God forbid, exam structures and levels. The NYCBE is an exam-driven philosophy and selection-based scolarity, a failure which neither the Education cadres, advisors and host of agencies are equipped to accept as the vested interests are now entrenched and can be expected to buttress the fiasco.
Our education system needs to be revamped and designed to work for all children, improving access for the academically bright and offering adapted opportunities for those who do not fit that straight-jacket mould. Obstinacy to plod on with only some minor adjustments would be vainglorious from the Minister, her cadres, and her advisers.
Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 12 May 2023
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