PRABHA DHOONOOAH
Dean of Studies of Grade 13
School Careers Counselor
College du Saint Esprit

“The child asks, ‘What can you do for me?’, The teenager says, ‘I want to do it alone. ‘The young person proclaims, ‘ Let us do it together.’ The leader offers ‘What can I do for you?’” “The transformation of a child into a leader relies heavily on the education system and should be the responsibility of educators”, has said APJ Abdul Kalam. The focus of education should thus be on creating lifelong autonomous learners. The pace of change is accelerating, with increasing globalisation, advances in technology, communication, social networking and greatly increased access to information. Accordingly, the school curriculum must attempt to equip students for this significantly changed and changing world. How ready are we to redesign a 21st century curriculum in Mauritius to prepare students for life?

The 6+3 program…

The Ministry of Education is said to be trying to alleviate the situation by adopting a holistic approach v/s academic progress solely through the 9-year schooling program (which I prefer to call the 6+3 program). (asher.com/ministryof-education-mauritius/holistic -education-mauritius). Some measures already proposed and adopted previously to this effect are –

-Introduction of 4 Activity periods on a weekly basis;

-Setting up a Quality Assurance division to provide the necessary support to schools in improving the quality of education being imparted to our students;

-Introduction of relevant programs to help students develop entrepreneurial skills e.g some Grade 12 students are already benefiting from work placements in private firms;

Setting up a new Career Guidance framework starting at school with the help of HRDC and MITD. (ministry- education. govmu.org/English/Events/Documents/ British_council_Young_Journalist_Questions_for_Hon_Minister_11June_2012.)

How effective have these measures been till now? In many, if not most schools, activity periods seem to have been taken over by academic teaching or are deemed to be ‘free’ periods. There is almost no follow up for Grade 12 students who have done a 2-week placement in private firms. You do muse on the statement of a resource person from the Careers Guidance sector who emphasises success in English and Mathematics at one and the same sitting at O Level when there is so much more at stake in today’s world!

I am firmly convinced that educators in this country have a vision of nurturing today’s young people and inspiring tomorrow’s leaders through excellence in education. However, can this be achieved by merely patching up flaws or by developing a model of more inclusive education, where stakeholders, academic subjects and departments are not presented in isolation from each other but collectively? Our main focus is on completing the syllabus and academic results. But is a lack of basic skills such as resilience, communication, proactivity, leadership and the ability to manage conflicts, the source of not only a decline in the quality of results but also the source of other ills such as lack of discipline and an upsurge of violence in schools? Skills are developed inside and outside the classroom, where the student is encouraged to learn, unlearn and relearn through his mistakes, and is empowered and encouraged to assume the consequences of his behaviour by both teachers and parents.

You would agree with me that educators should be provided with building blocks to support students on their journey. I believe that one such building block should be a good quality Careers Education and Guidance comprehensive program. Careers Education and Guidance, contrary to the common belief, is not just about finding jobs for young people when they leave school. Rather, it is about realising the potential and nourishing the dreams of the next generation. It should be at the heart of schooling, with the setting up of a counseling unit, operating with the help of the Careers Guidance service, HRDC and MITD.

Actively engage children

Finland, cited as a reference for excellence in education, draws its teachers from the top 10%, shapes an initial teacher education program, provides coaching, mentoring and ongoing professional development. Finnish schools seek to actively engage children. Teachers are moving away from the traditional teaching of school subjects towards a future where they will increasingly focus on comprehensive learning skills (ncee.org/what-we-do/ center-on-internationaleducation-benchmarking/top-performing-countries/finland-overview/finland-teacher-andprincipal-quality/). How relevant is this model to our island whose education is based mostly on the British model where so many of our children aim only for the Laureate Scheme at the end of their schooling years? Or, where heads of schools, teachers are continually transferred from one school to another and students uprooted so often during their schooling years that they are not able to develop a sense of belonging anywhere?

I would wish to conclude with a dream of SEAN-HAMPTON-COLE – “I HAVE A DREAM: THE FUTURE OF EDUCATION

I have a dream that one day students will be more important than syllabi… In the not distant future, education will be a collaborative enterprise, with teachers and students assuming shifting roles as coaches, mentors and learners… There will be time to think in the future. Students will have time to reflect and ponder in place of being perpetually pummeled by overstuffed curricula… Schools around the world will eventually become hotbeds of customized learning and discovery and interaction. As a result, both teachers and students will be happy, enthusiastic and enjoy every minute of life.” (I have a Dream: The future of Education-Ideas out There- seanhamptoncole.wordpress. com/2014/08/16/i-have-a-dream-the-future-of-education).