We have high expectations of our students
This is a response to an Editorial in The Royal Gazette on December 3.
1. Thanks for finally recognising that the adoption of the Cambridge Curriculum was the enactment of a recommendation contained in the ‘Hopkins Report’.
2. The hope “ … that more subjects would be added over time.”
The adoption of the Cambridge Curriculum in three core subjects does not preclude students from continuing to take examinations in other areas of interest. Nor does it mean that we will not expand the course selection. At the senior level, students have the option of taking External Exams in a variety of subjects through a variety of Boards (including Cambridge). For example, examinations were sat in Foreign Languages, the Arts, Business and Technology, Physical Education and Family Studies.
Bermuda public school students have always successfully sat external examinations and as a result, enter some of the most prestigious institutions in the word, directly from senior school.
3. “The results were finally made public last week some three months after they were received.”
Examination results were sent directly to schools in August. They were then sent directly to the parents of the students who sat the exams; after which they were shared in PTA Meetings by Principals. The Minister and members of the MOED team also attended PTA meetings to share system-wide information with parents.
The results were shared with the general public by means of Town Hall Meetings held on September 27 and November 1. They have been shown on the Government Television Station, CITV, on an almost daily basis since the first Town Hall Meeting, therefore the results have been in the public domain since September 27, 2012.
4. “An eight percent pass rate in maths is just shocking. By comparison, 38 percent and 25 percent pass rates in English and science look good. But they’re not. They are very poor.”
Prior to this year, students were selected to do this external exam at S4. This year, all students sat the examinations in the core subjects in S2 — two years earlier than previous. These students have the opportunity to resit the examination and improve their grades if they wish — or, they can go on to do A levels and or College courses.
For Information: Cambridge does not usually refer to ‘passes’ or ‘fails’. The grades they issue are intended to recognise what candidates know and can do.
5. “No one should expect 100 percent pass rates in any of these exams. But to be so far behind the international standards is indefensible.”
According to Cambridge, Bermuda had an 89 percent average pass rate in the IGCSE examinations. Every student — except those with a cognitive disability — took the examinations.
6. “What is especially hard to square is the idea that the same students who cannot pass a IGCSE exam go on two years later to graduate from high school, allegedly prepared for university or work.”
See 4. Above. Graduation takes place at S4 level.
Students took the IGCSE exams at S2.
The senior school experience is about more than just the Cambridge Curriculum. The graduation criteria set by the Board of Education requires students to have a minimum grade-point-average of 2.0 [the equivalent of a 70 percent average across their subjects] and a minimum of 104 credits — 62 credits in required subjects and 42 credits in elective subjects.
7. “According to Dame Jennifer, 95 percent of students attained a 2.0 grade point average in high school and therefore graduated. Yet these same students are failing GCSE exams in extraordinary numbers.”
Ninety-five percent of our senior school students graduated. This means that 217 out of 229 senior school students achieved a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 70 percent.
I have two questions for The Royal Gazette:
1. When you do not understand what is being said — be a good student and ask questions — are you willing to take the same exam as these students and let us publish your results?
2. What was the purpose of this editorial? There were no positive suggestions, nothing other than criticism and a clear misunderstanding of the high expectations which our students are meeting and surpassing.
Editor’s Note: The Royal Gazette stands by the editorial.
With regard to:
Point 3, detailed results were only released to the public in November.
Point 4: S2 students are in their 16th year, the same age that students around the world take GCSE exams. Therefore it is fair to compare Bermuda’s success rate with international standards at this age.
Point 5: Bermuda does not have an 89 percent pass rate at Grade C or above in these exams, and C is the internationally accepted passing grade. The percentage of all taking the IGCSE maths exam who got a C or above was 75. The percentage of Bermuda public school students getting C or above was eight. The average pass rate of students getting C or higher was 25 percent in Bermuda.
Point 6: It is still difficult to understand how 92 percent of students who cannot get a grade C in Maths can graduate with an average of 70 percent in all subjects two years later. It does not add up.
As for questions for The Royal Gazette, the Editor of this newspaper has already passed the same exams.
The purpose was to point out that the pass rates being announced by the Department of Education are wrong. A grade of C is the commonly accepted pass rate. Pretending it is something else is doing a disservice to Bermuda’s students. this newspaper has offered many constructive ideas and has always supported the Hopkins Report recommendations. But before being constructive, you have to agree on a common standard.
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