In late August, leaders of the two Caribbean nations of Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago both met during the latter’s Independence Day celebrations and agreed to deepen their working relationship in fighting crime. This is noteworthy given that both nations rank disturbingly high in global per capita murder rates. Indeed, the duo frequently features in the top 10 spots globally; a grim milestone which no doubt hurts their chances of accruing greater foreign investment and development. These murders, after all, are in no way random happenstance. Instead they are linked to established criminal elements such as gangs, organized crime rings and a general apathy towards normalized violence. However, apart from reforms in policing and a harsher approach towards criminals, one of overlooked tools in the fight against crime is education.
A Unified Approach
At present, national security and education are seen as two entirely different areas of focus for many governments. However, their goals can and should be intertwined through a unified approach. For example a case study from the German Institute for the Study of Labour (IZA) noted a direct correlation between access to better education as well as improved literacy rates and crime rates among various communities. Consequently the UN Office on Drugs and Crime further drew this connection and heavily recommended that nations, both developed and emerging, prioritize learning as a tool in the fight against crime.
Looking At Advanced Models
In striving for a better educational framework, it would behoove us to assess the strengths and merits of more advanced and renowned models. A previously mentioned and globally noted one is that of Finland. According to the World Economic Forum and Smithsonian, Finland’s education stands as one of, if not the best education systems in the world. This is due in large part to the catered, student focused approach at its core. Indeed, most systems stress the importance of each child needing to adhere to rote, fixed models of learning and all are assessed according to these expectations. In the Finnish system however, a student is constantly advanced and branched off based on their assessed aptitudes.
Advancement occurs not through periodic examination but rather through frequent, practical and applicable assessments. Thus, if a child shows a greater aptitude for mechanical creativity and solving problems, they will be encouraged and guided towards subjects fitting these fields. Consequently, a child who displays skill in writing and analysis would be guided more towards areas based in the Humanities. This means that no one is left behind or falls through the cracks as they are assessed based on their exhibited strengths and weaknesses then guided in a way which may still allow them to contribute positively to wider society.
Advanced Model, Greater Demands
It further becomes important to establish that a more refined and open ended education system would itself, come with greater demands. That is to say that teaching would now be considered a highly professional field. Thus, in the case of early development in children particularly during the formative juvenile years, a teacher, for example in the above mentioned Finnish model, serves as a guide and assists the child in selecting and deciding where their next area of focus in studies should be. This requires teachers to be well versed in child psychology, development and nurturing as well in their respective subjects being taught.
Thus, a teacher in this advanced model would need Master’s Degree tier qualification and require constant participation in learning seminars and training so as to be kept up to date and at the peak of their performance. Naturally, this means said teachers would also require greater financial compensation. This of course may be challenging for Caribbean nations given that Education already stands as one of the top 3 areas of expenditures in national budgets and as such, reluctance may result in further expanding that. However, as mentioned prior, this focus should be taken in tandem with national security. Therefore, where more money could be spent on ‘The War on Drugs’, which yields negligible and diminishing returns, these funds can instead be redirected to education.
Catering To Local Needs
Perhaps most importantly, this initiative shouldn’t be emulated to a T. Instead, it should serve as a basis or inspiration for any local model as needs here are quite varied and different. As a simple example, there are communities in both TT and Jamaica that are well known as hotspots where juvenile and youth criminality is relatively high. On the other hand, in other communities this may not exist but other variables such as poverty, something less prevalent in developed nations, would also affect the nature of required education. This in itself is an investigation worthy of numerous scientific papers as experts and policy makers would need to be sensitized towards a wide degree of interest groups and their unique needs.
Put simply, targeted communities can be the first to engage in this initiative, wherein schools offer a broader, individualized approach to progression which can directly carry over into apprenticeship and full employment. For example, a child demonstrating aptitude in skills that may be best suited to vocational fields can be directed to one best suited to their talents and then, say, given direct experience in this area be it plumbing or mechanical repair.
In short, education can and should be used as a flexible tool in the localized fight against crime. With the right decisions, it can very well serve as a crutch for the most vulnerable in troubled communities to not only better themselves but their collective areas as well.