Thursday 19th October, 2006

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Producing world-class achievers

Twins Nandita and Nandaki Keshavan should be very proud, so too should Preeya Mohan, for their achievements at the Cambridge A-Level examinations.

Indeed, the nation should be proud of their performances since they were able to place among the top students in the world. In all, nine students from T&T placed in top-ten positions in the examinations.

The achievement by these teenagers comes at a time when young people and T&T’s education system are under the microscope. Quite often the local education system is described as lacking or inadequate for the needs of today’s students.

It is true that a lot needs to be done with education, from the physical infrastructure to the content taught in schools. At the same time, these young people have shown that T&T is able to produce world-class achievers.

That should come as no surprise. For decades Trinidadians and Tobagonians have distinguished themselves around the world, taking their place in major corporations. They have been able to do that by building on the education they received in T&T, whether secondary or tertiary.

Many of these professionals are also returning to these shores to make their contribution, taking up positions in the energy sector and some being attracted to lecture at the University of T&T.

They are taking their place among many professionals who have been educated locally and who make their contribution to the private and public sectors.

That having been said, the success of T&T’s education system is not only about the top achievers. Every year upwards of 11,000 students sit the SEA exam. What becomes of the majority of those students should be of major concern. That is where Government should be focusing its efforts, ensuring that there are sufficient schools, that students are well equipped and that the syllabus is relevant to today’s challenges.

Today’s young people face a barrage of challenges, from the pull of gang life to the break-up of families. The Guardian’s series on teen pregnancy revealed a world that few adults themselves understand and was instructive in the way teens and even pre-teens cope with sex and sexuality.

It is important to note that the top achievers interviewed by the Guardian had strong support from their families. The influence of the family cannot be overestimated, a fact that is often appreciated when it is lacking.

For every top achiever like those featured in the Guardian there are numerous others who are highlighted in less favourable circumstances, as being involved in crime or gang violence, for example. Those are the children whom the education system and the family have failed and they have just as much influence on T&T as top achievers through their activities.

Even a world-class education system cannot be a substitute for a strong family unit, either a nuclear family or, as is common in T&T, a more extended family. Our young people have shown that they are capable of achieving. It is up to the adults in society—especially mothers and fathers—to take up the responsibility of nurturing the nation’s children.





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