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Rabain defends public-school system

Dispelling myths: Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education

A “lack of confidence” in the public-school system is to blame for the loss of pupils to private institutions, the education minister said last night.

Diallo Rabain said: “There is a belief that the private schools are better. That’s why we see that flight.

“Our job is to change that mindset. Our job is to put a system in place that produces a quality of graduates, the quality of grades, that people can now say ‘I can trust my child to be here’.”

Mr Rabain was speaking at a town hall meeting on education held last night.

The event, organised by the Progressive Labour Party, took place at the Bermuda Industrial Union headquarters.

Several dozen people attended, including principals, teachers and parents. Mr Rabain disagreed with the suggestion from an audience member that the private-school system was better than the public.

He added: “One thing that I do want to make clear — the direct apples-to-apples comparison is just not possible at this time.”

Mr Rabain said that there were problems related to pupil needs that private schools “do not have to deal with”.

He added: “The Education Act states that as long as the student has the ability to learn, we have to figure out a way to teach them.”

Mr Rabain said that public-school classrooms were made up of pupils that included the “high flyer” as well as pupils with special learning needs.

He added: “The private schools, they only have one type of student. And that really is the biggest difference there.”

O’Brien Osborne, the principal at Somerset Primary School, asked Mr Rabain to “dispel this myth” that all students in private schools are smart.

He said: “And when I say smart, I mean above average.

“That is not true. I am a former teacher in the private-school system.”

Mr Rabain said that the Government will start to collect more in-depth pupil and school data to allow for public and private schools to be more accurately compared.

Other topics raised by event attendees focused on middle schools, pupil assessments, class sizes, school zones, special education and how resources are distributed.

Mr Rabain thanked the teachers in attendance.

He said: “Teaching is the only profession that teaches all other professions. We have a great admiration and respect for our teachers.

“We might not get along at times, we might butt heads, but at the end of the day I think we all have the same thing in mind, and that is to ensure that our students get the best that they can get.”

A second town hall event will be held at Somerset Cricket Club on Thursday at 6pm.