Mr. Barrie Farrington, Senior Vice President, Kerzner International, and President of the Bahamas Hotel Employers Association, discussed the twin business and education crises facing the Bahamas and some of the steps that must be taken to resolve them.
The Coalition for Education Reform was created in 2004 by a group of Bahamian leaders and organizations concerned over the insufficient number of qualified Bahamian job candidates. Certain members had expansion plans and a real need to hire Bahamians. But too many Bahamian job applicants lacked functional literacy — the basic ability to read, write, speak and calculate. This limits their ability to qualify for jobs that require basic skills on day-one or for jobs where skills may be acquired with on-the-job training after being hired.
He gave anecdotal evidence. But his main evidence was the BGCSE (Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary Education) exams that are designed to show what students “know, understand and can do” on leaving school.
That data are reported on the BGCSE 8-point scale; and the results for all exams were shown in a graph.
However, to more clearly show the education crisis, the data was put on a 5-point scale (“A”, “B”, “C”, “D” and “F”). The last four points of the 8-point scale (“E”, “F”, “G” and “U”) were shown as an “F”. The 5-point system is the one used in the United States, Canada and elsewhere.
This produced a graphic picture of academic performance that was shocking:
• In the English Language exam 33% of the students earned an “F”.
• In the Math exam 59% earned an “F”.
• Males wrote 38% of all exams taken and females 62%.
• Females earned almost twice as many “As” and “Bs” as males.
• 52 % of the Public High School students and 22% of the Private High School students earned “Fs”.
Mr. Farrington went on to discuss the causes. He talked about the strategic errors made in the 1970s. This was the period when the system was expanded to provide universally available primary and secondary education. The strategic errors were clearly identified;
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