Tuesday, October 9, 2012

10 Reasons Why Our Students Fail

An opinion paper
The nation is distressed about the results of the CXC exams.  We are especially appalled about the percentage who failed in mathematics and English Language.  We need to take a good look at the sciences and foreign languages.  Where exactly are we heading?  How are we preparing our children for life in the 21st century and beyond?  Why exactly do our children fail?  I could go online and research reasons for failure and find many, but I want to make my response local.  Sometimes self-assessment is critical if an individual or institution is to improve.  So let us examine ourselves.  The process has to begin somewhere.  This is my attempt.

1. Lack of clear policies from the ministry of education   
    There is a lack of clear plans emanating from the Ministry of Education to assist teachers to maintain skills in a changing environment.  Research in education is an ongoing process.  It is useless then to train teachers, return them to the classroom and have no clear policy to ensure that teachers keep abreast of what is happening in the learning community that can impact their classroom.  Workshop attendance is insufficient.  The Ministry of Education should have clear policies regarding the renewal of teacher certification at specific intervals through participation in specific education courses.  Policies are needed to respond to questions such as: What is expected of teachers? What is expected of students? What is expected of parents? How does each stakeholder in education deal with grievances? Not only should these questions be answered, but the answer should be made public on the ministry’s website and through white papers and brochures.  Antigua is the only place I know where you are given a job and not advised about your rights and responsibilities.

 2. Poor environment
     Time has moved on, but we have not changed with the times.  As a result we find ourselves left further and further behind.  We open new schools repeating the same old problems.  There is not one government school in Antigua that has been designed with the comfort of teachers and pupils in mind.  If I am incorrect and comfort was the original intent, then we have strayed from that intent.  All are utilitarian.  So we herd our children into overcrowded classrooms where there is barely room for the teacher to stand in front of the class and expect them to perform.  Are we crazy or what?  This is especially true in our secondary schools.  We send a steady stream of teachers to the Teacher Training College where they learn about the various theorists and new methodologies.  Then they return to the same old congestion and feel impotent to try anything new.  What have we given the schools to support these new methodologies?  The schools lack equipment and material to teach the subject in new and meaningful ways.

 3. Improper Use of Technology
     For years each secondary school has had a computer lab.  To what end?  The labs are only used to teach information technology.  Technology has neither been integrated into the curriculum nor into actual classroom practice.  Now we have given each teacher a laptop and plan to give fourth and fifth formers ipads.  Can all teachers use the laptops efficiently and effectively?  Do all teachers know how to use technology to facilitate student learning?  If not, what use will be made of the laptops and iPads?  Decisions about education are too serious and have too lasting an effect for them to be made in a frivolous off-hand manner.  Where's the research into teachers' and pupils' technological skills before making the decision to introduce these modalities?  Don't get me wrong.  I am a firm believer in the use of modern technologies in the teaching learning process, but have preparations been made to ensure their effective use? 

 4. Waning interest
     There is declining participation in subject areas such as foreign languages and the sciences.  I have only one question to ask.  Why is it that all children study at least one foreign language and the science subjects in secondary school, yet when they get to fourth and fifth form only a few opt to write these subjects and many fail?  This area requires thoughtful examination into content, methodologies, and student and teacher approaches and attitudes to the subject.

  5. Lack of parental support
     What exactly is the role of the parent in this equation?  Many parents are not there for their children.  Many do not ensure that they are properly fed, that they are appropriately attired for school, that they have the necessary material as requested by teachers to facilitate participatory learning activities, that they do their homework and allocate study time.  You might ask, what does being correctly dressed have to do with failure?  Some schools (and rightly so) have a dress code and will send children home for incorrect uniform.  That means the loss of valuable contact time.  Some parents just do not care.  If the Ministry of Education had strict well known policies concerning these matters some of these issues would not be encountered.  

 6. Culture
     We are a nation at risk for our children are ill-prepared to meet future challenges.  We have nurtured a culture where for the most part little value is placed on education.  Sure, we are happy as a nation where we see our children succeed, but what are we doing to ensure success for all?  Indifference has set in.  Many children go to school for lack of anything else to do.  The intent is not to learn.  Efforts should be made to get us back to the place where we value and nurture education.

 7. Lack of motivation
     Students need to be motivated to learn.  They have to desire to succeed and to overcome in spite of all the negatives.  A program should be started in every school where individuals in society who are successful, mentor students.  It takes a village.

 8. Peer Relationships
     Children should choose friends carefully since that can have a positive or negative impact on their lives.  Time should be devoted to new first formers to attempt to break the cycle.

9. Failure to Communicate
     Students who fail sometimes do so because they do not reach out to others.  Sometimes, they do not understand a crucial concept and they do not ask.  Maybe they are embarrassed and do not want their peers to know for fear they will be ridiculed.  Students need to be encouraged to voice their opinions and seek help when needed.

10.  Failure to Plan 
     Students will not succeed unless they plan to succeed and teachers are a part of this process.  As teachers plan their work this should be shared with students.  They should know what will be covered each term.  The Ministry of Education should make all syllabi available online and have hard copies for purchase.  This will facilitate student planning ahead.  They will be able to start to research topics teachers plan to cover and also to have an input into their own learning.


Segla Kossivi said...


Your legitimate questions need proper contemplation for effective answers. Other teachers might not be able to use computers to impart knowledge. That could be a reason for the IT’s teacher monopolizing the lab. Series of professional development might remedy the situation. Though technology is just a mere vehicle, its effective use provides tools for implementing constructivist principles (student-centered learning) to facilitate collaboration (Palmarova & Lovaszova, 2012). However, the main problem the writer forsees is the lack of appropriate teaching theories and strategies in the school. Educators, policy makers, educators, parents, innovators, need to think about educational reform.

Palmarova, V., & Lovaszova, G. (2012). Mobile technology used in an adventurous outdoor learning activity: A case study. Problems of Education in the 21st Century, 44, 64-71.

Dorothea Nelson said...


I couldn't agree with you more.


Royjr. said...

I agree that the above mentioned points are necessary for our students to pass their exams but it would be pointless without vision. There is a lack of vision on the part of our educators and policy makers. For example, the teacher-students cannot major in Information Technology because the Ministry of Education does not have anything in place. They were told that they would have to major in another subject area while studying at the teacher training college. Information Technology is part of the school’s curriculum. When these teachers return to their schools they will be teaching IT. Sometimes, I am confused because we boast about the IT devices that we give away to our students but we are unable to offer a course because we have nothing in place at the teacher training college. Eleven years and 285 days of the 21st century have passed and we haven't solved one of these problems.

Seagla has made valid points. They need to think about education reform and conduct a series of professional development workshops or training. They should start these sessions off with educators, stakeholders and policy makers. I feel like they are uncertain as to how to create and implement these policies.

Dorothea Nelson said...

Hello Royjr

I couldn't agree with you more. There is an old saying that we shouldn't "put the cart before the horse. It seems to me that we have a history of doing that in Antigua. Its like putting a new patch in an old garment. Where are the plans that should be put in place to effect the use of technology in the classroom? There needs to be a two-pronged approach: 1) teach teachers to use technology and provide specialized training for technology teachers and 2)teach teachers to use technology and to integrate it into their daily classroom practice. If something is not done soon, we will continue to fall behind.

Let's keep the conversation going and get others to join.


Anonymous said...

Education is not a static entity. Therefore, teaching and learning should evolve. However, the idea of a government's lack of vision may be so entrenched that arguably, the education of the 19th century is still what transpires in the 21st century. The lack of vision translates into a "Lack of clear policies from the ministry of education". In terms of education, this lack of guidance from the head almost certainly ensures that our students fails. Without a vision - the people perish.

Dorothea Nelson said...

This lack of vision will engulf and consume us. What of the future of our nation? Our future lies in the hand of young people ill prepared to make the right choices. The Ministry of Education needs to plan from the ground up. Until we can be honest, say what is wrong, and make concrete cohesive plans to right it, nothing will change. The patch-worked, hodgepodge of ideas that currently operates for policy certainly should not be allowed to continue. Our children and our future deserve better.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, I've recently been looking for info about this topic for a while and yours is the
greatest I have discovered till now. However, what about the bottom line?
Are you certain in regards to the supply?

Dorothea Nelson said...

Hello Anonymous,

Thanks for continuing the conversation. When you say the bottom line and supply, I take it to mean the costs of providing the type of facilities, staff, and training required by 21st century education. I think what our people need is a vision of what education should/can be, then work consistently towards that end. Of course all of the schools cannot be made top notch at the same time, but if we sit wringing our hands and lamenting the cost nothing will ever happen. We begin with one school at a time. Is that impossible?