years ago, when I was in West Germany (that was when it
was still West Germany, in my misspent youth), I met a young
man from a West African nation. He told me about the corruption
in his country; that favours were expected at all levels.
He had younger twin sisters and he expected that for them
to be able to advance in their school career, they would
have to sleep with their male teachers. I was horrified.
He shrugged and said it was sad, but that was just the way
After seeing the relief and jubilation of the SEA students
once the exam was behind them, I thought about the incident
described above. Specifically, I thought of the many parents
who acknowledge how painful the SEA process is, but then
say: Thats the system we have to work with, thats
just how it is.
Recently, I was at a panel discussion at UWI School, my
old school, debating the pros and cons of maintaining the
schools present, wide-ranging curriculum versus narrowing
the focus to concentrate purely on SEA-related material.
According to Pat Worrell, who started us off with a rousing
presentation, your curriculum depends on what kind of child
you want to create.
In planning its original curriculum, in the days of the
old Scholarship Exam, UWI School did not take the this-is-the-way-it-is
approach. Rather, the school started from the point that
it wanted the kind of child who had been through a curriculum
which was enjoyable and educational. And this is the philosophy
to which the school has adhered in the 50 or so years of
This is evident not only from the curriculum, but from the
schools refusal to do lessons with the
SEA class. The principal and teachers holdquite rightlythat
the curriculum should be taught during school hours and
that there is sufficient time in the school day and school
year to learn, master and practise it. Their confidence
is borne out by the schools consistently good results
and by the fact that many of their students do well while
continuing their extra-curricular activities right through
The students at UWI School are not, as a group, any brighter
or more talented than the general population. The difference
is that they are allowed to develop their talents through
a curriculum which encourages performance and excellence
in many different areas.
UWI School never set out to be an alternative school (although,
tellingly, a former principal did go on to establish another
primary school which had mixed ability classes), but it
turned out to be a good place for children who would not
have worked in the mainstream school system.
I remember a young man who couldnt spell, but wrote
wonderful compositions, which were pasted up on the bulletin
board and praised for their originality. The affirmation
he got, helped him into a first-choice boys school.
Education was never meant to be about grooming students
only to pass one particular exam or set of exams, that is
a failure of education.