the review: 1 of 1998

First Published: 1998-05-01

Bahamianization: The Teaching Profession

Bahamianization is the most widely accepted political objective in the country… in some way or other, all parts of the society embrace it. However, reason suggests that there should be a limit to Bahamianization. That limit should be the point beyond which it damages the welfare of the country.

A good example of this is the Letter to the Editor, “It-s better for Bahamians to be taught by Bahamians”, by Deanne Hanna-Ewers published in mid-December 1998 by The Tribune.

Is it always better?

The author contends that —

  • It is “better for Bahamian children to be taught by Bahamian teachers.”
  • Foreign teachers are limited by nature in their ability to provide “satisfaction and fulfillment”.
  • Students will learn better within a black environment that will “nurture their culture, lift their self-esteem and push their academic ability.”
  • Bahamian teachers create “a positive empowerment of student self-esteem” and “a sense of oneness, pride and nationalism.”
  • “Bahamian morals and values will be safeguarded and not blemished with foreign intrusion.”

Ms. Hanna-Ewers provided no concrete evidence to support these assertions except the opinion of W.E.B. Du Bois, the eminent Black American leader of the 1930s and 40s, who believed “that black children once integrated would be mistreated” and deprived of their growth potential. She also cited the work of Loftus Roker, the former PLP Member of Parliament, who terminated foreign teachers to save “the country-s heritage” and create jobs for Bahamians.

Teachers and principals.

The author has presented assertions… pure rhetoric. She should have examined —

  • The academic scores of students in the primary and secondary schools. The fact is that students leaving school have an alarming inability to read, write, calculate and reason. The scores most recently published in the press show deterioration over the past four years.

  • The data on foreign and Bahamian teachers… their qualifications and numbers.

This data, the analysis of this data and the policy alternatives to reverse the trend lay buried in the Ministry of Education.

The author is avoiding the inescapable… students who cannot read, write, calculate and reason fail in the workforce and have low self-esteem.

This has dire consequences for the country and its ability to compete in the world… and compete it must. An important question, for instance, is “Is the deterioration in student academic performance in any way related to teachers or teaching?”

Improved levels of student achievement can only be attained with good teachers and principals who reach for educational excellence and are awarded accordingly. There are other elements but this is one of the most important.

Furthermore, the Bahamas is so small that it is unrealistic to believe that it can supply all its teacher needs. The shortage is clearest in the “hard sciences”… mathematics, biology, chemistry, electronics, computer science, etc. It is recognized in the United States that its education system does not meet the demands of its high-tech economy. It imports teachers from abroad.

Any educational program that starts with the proposition that teachers must be Bahamian must lead to faulty policy recommendations.

Rhetoric without reason.

Ms. Hanna-Ewers presents us with an unacceptable dilemma… a choice between Bahamian culture and history and “western” culture and history. This is an unfortunate choice.

Bahamian children should have an appreciation of the history of the Bahamas and the African peoples. There is much to be learned that is valuable here besides adding to one-s sense of pride and self-esteem.

The time devoted to this, however, must not take precedence over teaching the basics. Bahamians must recognize that the British/European/American culture has been the dominant world culture for the past 300 years. Ironically, if a unique Bahamian culture is to grow, it must absorb the full range of skills and values that have given the dominant culture an edge in it its confrontations with other cultures.

Thomas Sowell, the Black American economist and historian, spent the last 15 years studying race, culture, migrations and conquests over 2,000 years of history. He concluded

“not only individuals but whole peoples have moved from the backwaters of the world to the forefront of civilizations… these peoples sought the knowledge and insights of other peoples.”

Bahamians must do the same since only in this way will they be viable in today-s world. They will not achieve this if they allow their educational policies to be determined by the soaring rhetoric of nationalism without reason… a rhetoric that paints them into a cultural box… isolated and anchored in the past.

The public should know more about the state of education today. Hopefully Deanne Hanna-Ewers and the Ministry of Education will address these issues publicly to create a strong public support for policies that protect country-s best interests.

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