Outdated Education


Education (Photo credit: EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection)

English: Logo of Educational Initiatives

English: Logo of Educational Initiatives (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The way we often teach in Barbados is outdated and no longer serves us well.  I have already stated some of these views in a letter to the editor published in the Barbados Advocate newspaper on the 26th of April, 2013.  It is necessary to repeat some of them in this blog so that readers can understand my philosophical perspective and my line of argument.

It is my contention that our educational system is no longer appropriate in the present global economic, fiscal and social conditions.  It is imperative that we change how we teach.  At present we primarily teach students how to pass public examinations rather than educate them in a true, real world sense.  In other words, exams drive teaching.  This is wrong.

We need to teach students how to think critically, make informed decisions, and solve problems in the real world.  We are still placing too much emphasis on lower order thinking skills like recall.  Most of us pursue higher education and credentials in order to get a specific job or a promotion.  We do not seek this certification in order to become experts in our chosen fields and use the attendant knowledge and skills to do research and development to improve life for everyone in our country, and indeed, the wider world.  We need to create, innovate and improve our systems, processes and products.

We talk a lot but we fall down at the level of implementation and evaluation.  Then we bring in expensive foreign experts to try to solve our problems for us.  This is why Barbados is slipping in so many areas.

To halt this gradual decline we must begin by teaching our students and children how to think, make decisions and solve real problems.  We must employ more constructivist teaching methods in which students learn by doing rather than by direct teaching alone.  Discovery learning is one such method.  This takes place in problem-solving situations where students use previous knowledge, questioning, experiments, research, and discussion groups.  The teacher becomes a facilitator.  Students are more motivated and will remember the concepts better because they discovered them.

Teachers can use metacognition as a related strategy.  It can be defined as thinking about thinking.  It teaches students to analyse and improve their own thinking skills.  They learn how to read a text or do a specific task, evaluate their performance and ensure that the task was done correctly.  They use planning, analysis, evaluation and synthesis.  Projects, field trips and oral presentations are also useful.  Teachers, through a mixture of direct teaching, discovery learning and metacognitive techniques will help students to develop a range of thinking skills which will help them solve problems throughout their lives.  In effect, they will learn how to learn through inquiry-based learning.

I am certain that schools and, indeed, the entire country will benefit from this methodological shift in teaching and learning.

Trevor Pilgrim





2 thoughts on “Outdated Education

  1. There is much talk about “teaching to the test” in my country, the United States, as well. And the problem seems to be getting worse. We need more programs like yours that engage each child’s critical thinking, imagination, and problem-solving.


    • Thanks for your comment. Let us hope that many more persons who make educational policy see the light, and understand that we need new and more relevant teaching methods in the 21st century. We need authentic, real-world education.


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