Simons says time is ripe for maths reform
The time is “ripe” to form a mathematics education council, the shadow minister for education said yesterday.
Cole Simons said: “This issue is far too important, and we must get it right.”
On Wednesday, a report showed that public school students had again failed to meet targets set in the subject, with only a quarter of middle school students and a third of primary school students attaining a mark set by the Department of Education.
Mr Simons said he had read education minister Diallo Rabain’s statement on the report with a “heavy heart”.
He said the latest statistics were “very similar” to previous years and “should not be allowed to continue”.
Mr Simons added: “We cannot continue to provide a disservice to our students and, by extension, the community at large.
“We cannot continue to walk on the path already trodden, and expect to end up at a different destination.”
The report released on Wednesday contained Cambridge Checkpoint results for Primary 6 and Middle 3 students for the 2016-17 school year. It showed that both groups of students had failed to meet a Department of Education target set for maths of 3.0 — equivalent to roughly a grade of C.
Reports back to 2014 showed it was at least the fourth consecutive year that both groups had failed to hit the benchmark.
The annual reports also showed both student groups well back of the average score of their peers in the subject internationally.
The results of the International General Certificate of Secondary Education examinations sat by senior-level students last year were also released.
According to the report, of the 445 students that took the maths examination, only 18 per cent achieved a grade of C or better.
Mary Lodge, former principal at St George’s Preparatory, said that students struggled with maths due to a lack of instruction time.
Ms Lodge explained: “They don’t spend enough time on it.”
She said her former school provided 90 minutes a day of maths instruction. The school repeatedly ranked in the top-performing schools in the subject, she added.
Ms Lodge said the 90 minutes was double the instruction provided at some other schools.
She said that it was “particularly important” that P5 and P6 teachers were “very good mathematicians”.
Ms Lodge added: “But the ministry does not necessarily have enough people where math is their strong suit.”
Ms Lodge said that “pockets of excellence” should be examined for why some students fared better than others.
She explained: “You may think that the children in St George’s are different to the children in Somerset but really they’re just children.
“So could we look at what it is that we have that’s working in various places and capitalise on that.”
Mr Simons said the maths council would be comprised of educators, industry and business leaders and math experts.
He said: “The council will secure a better understanding of where students struggle in maths education, and, as a consequence, will develop a framework and action plan.”
Mr Simons said the council would meet educators and parents. He added: “They will identify, share and recommend best practices that will improve the delivery and the quality of mathematics education in Bermuda.”
Professional development of maths teachers would be examined to provide recommendations for improvement.
Mr Simons said the council would also “examine and assess the Ministry of Education’s leadership team’s performance, given that this team is ultimately responsible for the delivery of mathematics education in Bermuda”.
He said Bermuda must provide 21st century skills to students.
Mr Simons explained: “We must develop critical thinkers and we must develop well-rounded learners who can effectively contribute to Bermuda’s development.
“Let’s get this right, as we owe it to our young people.”
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