Gibbons: Where’s the money for technical education?
Shadow Education Minister Grant Gibbons accused Government of electioneering with talk of adopting the Career Academies initiative from the United States.
Dr Gibbons said he's heard many promises in recent years that young people will be given more technical learning opportunities to launch them towards non-academic careers. And he cast doubt over Community Development Minister Michael Weeks' pledge that Career Academies, which pairs a college-preparatory curriculum with a career-related focus, could be coming to Bermuda.
“At this point we haven't heard anything from the Minister of Education and it would appear that any implementation of Career Academies will fall under the Ministry of Education, not Minister Weeks portfolio,” said the One Bermuda Alliance MP.
“Given the cutbacks in Education, it also raises the obvious question of the likely need for additional money and resources, or whether the Education Ministry will sacrifice other programmes to fund Career Academies. “Unfortunately Government's pledge to now import this US programme, and inevitably more consultants, is a tacit admission that Government has been unable to implement the kind of school reform that Professor Hopkins was advocating in his 2007 Report recommendations: that is, to improve the public system for all students including the needs of young males.
“Sadly, after four years, I don't believe that this Government has much if any credibility left when it comes to either implementing real education reform or even following through on technical training promises through the National Training Board. Since Minister Weeks has said that it is still early days for these programmes and it will take at least a year to implement, I can only conclude that this is yet another example of Government making more promises.
“Given the timing I suspect we're witnessing electioneering rather than any serious commitment of money or resources to get it done. As we've seen time and time again with this Government, talk is easy, but actually getting something accomplished has been a serious challenge in spite of good intentions.”
In 2008, then-Education Minister Randy Horton said Bermuda needs a blended education model including technical and vocational training, according to Dr Gibbons.
Last month, Mr Weeks named Career Academies as one possible solution to the Mincy Report's findings that more than half of young black males drop out of school early and end up unqualified for good jobs.
Dr Gibbons pointed to low graduation rates for Bermuda College's technical programmes in 2010: four people in hospitality and seven in technology and applied sciences. “I believe a large part of this stems from the failure of Government to properly address education reforms in P1 through S4 and to implement an integrated technical curriculum in the public school system,” he said.
He said the Opposition recommended a 'school within a school' concept similar to Career Academies to address the needs of at-risk young males in 2009.
“Prior to Mincy and Hopkins, we in the Opposition have been consistently advocating a fully integrated technical education curriculum starting at the middle school level for all public schools and continuing through Bermuda College,” he said.
“By not just reserving it for young males at risk, all students should have the benefit.
“Starting the technical curriculum in senior schools is too late: a lesson that should have been learned from the original Technical Institute which enrolled students following the 11-plus exams and continued until age 16 to 17.”