“Difficult Conversations – A Jacket for Jack” by Grenville Phillips II

“Difficult Conversations – A Jacket for Jack” by Grenville Phillips II

Once again, the Ministry of Education has proposed some type of educational reform to address the fact that most students leave school with no certificate evidence of having regularly attended.

After a lot of reported consultations, an outline of an educational reform plan has been revealed – with much public relations fanfare. Tragically, we seem to be planning to go from bad to worse, as if that were even possible.


The fundamental problem with our educational system is that it is not designed for all of our students. It is principally designed for the 20% of students who happen to understand the taught information earlier than their classmates, whether through parental support or their own initiatives.

Instead of addressing this root cause, we have decided to create separate schools of excellence. This will simply give the 20% of early-learners more learning options, while continuing to disqualify the majority of our students from the main benefits of a secondary school education.


We are doing our students a grave disservice. Instead of changing our policies that fail most of our students, we plan to shift our blame to them by cementing them as academic failures by removing their incentives to try.

Rather than evidence their secondary school education with regional or international certificates of academic worth that require their effort, we plan to present them with academically worthless certificates of participation – that require relatively little effort on their part. Shockingly, stakeholder teaching organisations have given this plan their blessing.


Our experienced teachers know that our educational system does not benefit the majority of our students. After first form, our secondary school early-learners seem to understand that our educational system is designed for them, and that the others make up a supporting cast. By third form, the ‘supporting cast’ seem to understand that they are simply along for the ride – and begin to lose hope.

The only group that remains hopeful that our educational system can benefit all students are parents – especially parents of the ‘supporting cast’. This educational reform plan is either a coincidence of incompetence or a cruel joke carefully designed to deceive parents into remaining hopeful.


The solution to all of this failure is obvious – follow the ISO 9001 international method of addressing root causes of problems, rather than our homegrown methods of reacting to symptoms with initiatives that do not address any of the root causes.

Grenville Phillips II is a Chartered Structural Engineer, and the Solutions Barbados' candidate for St George North. He can be reached at NextParty246@gmail.com
Grenville Phillips II is a Chartered Structural Engineer, and can be reached at NextParty246@gmail.com

We need an educational system designed for all students. This means that we teach in a way that all students may understand, instead of mainly the 20% who happen to understand the material first. If every student understands, then every student can achieve a 100% pass mark on every test. For clarity, those who are mentally retarded need special care.


The reason why all students may not achieve the 100% pass mark is that some are careful while others are careless. The careful students accept that they are not perfect and choose to reread the questions and recheck their answers. Also, because they attach value to the taught material, they pay attention. The careless will read the questions once and not check their answers at all. Also, because they attach little value to what is taught, they allow themselves to be distracted.

The purpose of testing then is to identify the careless students and encourage them to: (i) adopt a diligent attitude of carefulness and (ii) value what is taught. Students may have diverse reasons for being careless, including: parental challenges, home condition, bullying, and community environment. However, regardless of the reason, all students can make the decision to improve the things they can control – one of which is their attitude.

Students will likely change for the better once they understand the benefits of doing so, and believe that they can attain them with normal effort. This is not theory. I have written about this for almost two decades – and practiced it for more than a decade.


Since founding Walbrent College in 2010, the minimum pass mark has always been 100% and most students attain this standard. The careless are encouraged to diligently pursue the way of the careful and similarly benefit. There is now over a decade of evidence proving the success of this method.

While students may be classified as careful or careless, adults may be classified as either teachable or stubborn. Despite writing about improving education for over two decades, I remain hopeful that policy makers will be willing to discuss them one day soon – two decades is a long time to be giving jack his jacket.

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