Education, or lack thereof, has made the headlines again. And based on the July 25, 2005 report by The Coalition for Education Reform titled "Bahamian Youth – The Untapped Resource" it should be. (This link is to the full report on The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce web site.)
The report shows the BGCSE average grade for 2004 for Math was an" E", and for English Language the mean grade was a "D-".
The Bahamas is not the only country with a poor standard of education in government schools. The standard has been steadily declining in the US and Canada for many years and has led to dramatic growth in home schooling.
In 2002 -2003 there were between 1,700,000 – 2,100,000 children being home schooled from Kindergarten to Grade 12. In 2000 – 2001 there were 1.5 – 1.7 million children home educated. And in the last few years the annual rate of growth appears to be around 11.5%.
Dr. Brian Ray, of the National Home Education Research Institute notes that The National average in the US is the 50th percentile – and home-schoolers score as follows: in reading they are in the 79 percentile, in language – in the 73rd percentile and the same for math.
In the past few years there is a positive trend in US public education because of mounting pressure to change…pressure that is being generated from the electorate and the political leadership.
Back here at home, Mr. Hubert Ingraham, former Prime Minister, weighed in to suggest that 'more emphasis needs to be placed on providing Bahamian children with core curriculum skills at the pre-school level to improve upon educational results at the high school level.' (The Tribune, Tuesday, December 13, 2005).
While this is a good suggestion for students just entering the school system, the Ministry of Education should be taking immediate action to assist those students already in school to attain the skills required for white-collar jobs after graduation.
Teaching standards and work hours may have to be altered to accomplish this. Additional teachers could be found among the ranks of retired educators or even from other countries trained in remedial education for the high school levels. The cost for training and employing such teachers could be offset against the money now "wasted" on travel junkets by other ministries.
It is at minimum irresponsible to send young people out into the workforce without the ability to read, write and complete simple math problems. Furthermore, the Ministry of Education's response to The Report is disappointing. Rather than acknowledging that a problem exists and suggest how they might fix it, they dither over whether the BGCSE results in 2004 were an "E+" or an "F+"!!!!
Much can be learned from the report, and this is not the first effort by a private sector organization to raise concerns about public education. Since 1999 the Nassau Institute has published on the subject. Currently there are seven articles in this Website.
It will be a great day when the bureaucrats in education learn that regular folks have legitimate concerns about the direction of the educational system and reasoned ideas on how to improve the lot of the young Bahamians shackled by a system crumbling in on itself.
The Nassau Institute