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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

British children sent to West Indies for a better education

By Andrew Alderson, Chief Reporter

Hundreds of West Indian families in Britain are sending their children back to the Caribbean to get what many have found to be a better state education.

The children sometimes stay with relatives, and do not see their parents for months, in order to receive what is regarded as a more disciplined, traditional and structured schooling.

Parents who were born or have settled in Britain say the sacrifice is worth it, because British schools have become ill-disciplined and there is peer pressure on teenagers to do poorly in examinations.

Other parents are accompanying their children back to islands such as Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago.

The move represents a reverse in the trend of the past 50 years which has seen thousands of West Indian families coming to Britain in search of a better life, higher-paid jobs and a better education for their children.

Joy Seaton-Graham, who was born in Jamaica but who moved to Britain when she was 10, visited Barbados for a holiday in 2002. She fell in love with the island, heard that its schools had a fantastic reputation, and decided that her two sons would benefit from an education there.

Mrs Seaton-Graham moved to the island when she was a single mother in June 2004. She now runs a guest house with her husband, Christopher. Her younger son Troy, eight, goes to the same state school as the daughter of Owen Arthur, the prime minister of Barbados.

Her older son, Jordan, 14, starts at a state school in September. He has had to attend a private school for almost two years because there is shortage of places and a waiting list to get into state schools.

Mrs Seaton-Graham, 45, who used to live in Bedford, said: "The state system in Barbados is very good. The expectations of pupils are so much higher and they seem more inspired to do well because the teachers are more on the side of the children."

The education system in Barbados (pop 270,000), which still has corporal punishment, is based on the British system, but with traditional, rather than "trendy" teaching methods. Mathematics and English are taught in a similar way, but history and geography now have a greater emphasis on the Caribbean rather than Britain. Barbados, however, each year allocates between 18 and 20 per cent of all government spending on education compared with 13 per cent in Britain.

Donald Padmore, a senior education officer at the ministry of education in Bridgetown, said Barbadian schools are attracting record numbers of foreign students - including from Britain - up from about two per cent a decade ago to 10 per cent today. The island has 50,000 pupils in 103 state primary and secondary schools, most of which are mixed.

Daphne Goodman, who was born and raised in Barbados, took her four sons back to her homeland in 1997 after living in Britain for nine years, because she was convinced that they would do better than in state schools in Staines, Surrey.

After a year living in Barbados, she and her husband returned to Britain leaving her sons with the boys' paternal grandmother. Since then she has sometimes only seen them once a year, but insists that the sacrifice is worthwhile, particularly for her twin sons, Roland and Ronald.

The twins, who were 10 when they returned to Barbados and are now 19, are more academic than their two brothers, Fabian, 21, a joiner, and Julian, 18, who is doing a course in cabinet making.

Mrs Goodman, who lives in West Dulwich, south-east London, said: "The schools in Barbados are much stricter with pupils than those in Britain and teachers make the pupils take much more pride in their work. They were quickly doing much more advanced work than they had been doing in Britain."

Her sons have attended various primary and secondary schools in Barbados. "To start with, they complained that teachers were too strict and fussy, but eventually their work just got better and neater. In Barbados people really appreciate the value of a good education and know it can lead to a better job.

Mrs Goodman, who runs her own catering business and has now parted from her husband, added: "It is very hard being separated from my sons, but we speak regularly on the phone and the internet. It is worth if for their improved education."

Ronald and Roland each have eight CSECs - similar to Britain's GCSEs - and are now in the last year of a three-year associate degree course - an alternative to A-levels - at Barbados Community College.

Mrs Goodman's children also appreciate their schooling. Ronald said: "Standards in schools are higher here. We have to be quicker on our feet with numbers and words than in British schools."

Posted by jebratt :: Wednesday, April 05, 2006 :: 0 comments

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