I was pleased to hear the pronouncements by both political parties during the recent budget debate that education was the primary vehicle for social mobility. This, I hope, will bring the much-needed consensus on the way forward with a unified and effective education policy for our nation's children.
Our growth in literacy has been tepid at best, and at approximately 86 per cent we rank out of the top 50 countries worldwide (67 to be exact), which is inexcusable for a nation with a moderate population and an abundance of natural resources and technology at our disposal.
The next step I would like to see in their thought process is to realise that education is the primary vehicle for not only social mobility but also for national development. An educated nation is more forward-thinking, makes better decisions for long term-growth and development, and through conscious efforts puts fewer burdens on the government services.
We also need to move our concept of education beyond the standard passing of exams. We must seek to develop a comprehensive system that not only challenges retention and regurgitation, but employs critical thinking and analysis. Mental ability has returned to primary education and the anticipated return of civics will be in short order both commendable and a positive step forward.
I firmly believe that in order to achieve a thinking nation, topics I have listed below need to be pursued as well. Years of research have shown that though not classified as subjects they aid in the development of reasoning and communication skills:
Music: Music is an afterthought in most schools and something done once a week because the curriculum says so. Students who actively do music in schools have been shown to be more attentive in class, have better grades and be less prone to aggressive and disruptive behaviour.
Drama: Helps in self-expression and presentation skills. Let's face it, knowledge is nothing unless one can impart it to others. Too many of our good ideas get lost in "noise" because the presenter is unable to connect with the audience.
Chess: A simple board game that exercises the mind and promotes strategic, critical and analytical thinking. It requires dedicated time and space for the formulation of ideas and the analysis of results before implementing said ideas.
These suggestions are simple, easy to implement and require little or no additional resources from the public purse. Simple reallocation and re-purposing could do the trick.