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College has plan to tackle students’ ‘enormous deficit’ in basic academic skills

Bermuda College has created a five-year plan that will address “enormous deficits” in students’ basic academic skills.

Irving Berkowitz said that many high school graduates entering Bermuda College need one to two years of pre-college English and mathematics classes before they are ready.

“It’s not an indication of how intelligent they are, it is an indication of how prepared they are for college-level courses,” Dr Berkowitz said.

“It’s not just a problem in Bermuda. This is a problem that is universal. It’s a problem in the US that I have characterised as a national security problem. Students in California are graduating with an eighth grade education.

“If they don’t have college-level reading, how can we expect them to succeed in a reading-heavy course like history? Even in the vocations; the days when you are able to fix a car without a knowledge of mathematics are gone.”

He said the college is meeting with the Ministry of Education and the Island’s secondary schools in hopes of aligning their curriculums to create an easier transition.

Dr Berkowitz’s comments to

The Royal Gazette followed a speech he made to Hamilton Rotarians earlier this week.

The vice president of Academic Affairs told the weekly meeting that several initiatives would be undertaken in the next five years to improve student success.

“However unique we think Bermuda is, the world of which we are part is in the throes of a transition unlike anything we’ve seen in recent history,” he said.

“If it has precipitated anything it has forever changed our relationships and resources and has prompted all of us to re-examine everything we do from process re-engineering to reinventing ourselves. We must be clear in our message and our commitment to the people, especially the youth of Bermuda.

“There’s a sign that hangs over the door to the future that reads: If you enter here without an education, leave your hopes outside. Education is not merely preparation for life, it is life. it is the passport you will need to realise your goals and dreams.

“So what is an academic plan? It is the centrepiece, nucleus and cornerstone of the college’s blueprint for achieving its mission of setting Bermuda’s students on the paths to success. It represents the integration of the college’s vision, mission and values as well as its strategic goals and objectives into a portfolio of academic and vocational/technical programmes that prepare graduates for life, work and more advanced level education and training.”

Dr Berkowitz identified a handful of strategies as integral to the college achieving its goal of student success.

“We will strengthen and expand our delivery of basic skills instruction to address the enormous deficits with which students come in reading, writing, speaking and mathematics,” he said.

Dr Berkowitz listed plans to identify and assist “at-risk students in surmounting obstacles to successfully continuing and completing their courses and programmes” as another college objective.

Such efforts would include an “early alert and intervention initiative; student tutoring; more intensive student academic advising and personal counselling; and increased support for students with disabilities”, he said.

He added that the college also plans to increase its online courses and create more open computer labs for students to use between classes.

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Published November 17, 2011 at 9:01 am (Updated November 17, 2011 at 9:00 am)

College has plan to tackle students’ ‘enormous deficit’ in basic academic skills

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