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Sweeping education changes approved by Senators

Bold vision: Senator Owen Darrell (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

Sweeping changes to the education system have moved a step closer after legislation was passed in the Senate.

The Education Amendment Act 2021 will abolish middle schools and replace them with new “signature schools”.

The new-style schools will have signature learning programmes added to the regular curriculum.

The new schools – to be launched in September next year – will be equipped with career-focused “signatures“ based on tourism, finance, insurance and trades.

Middle schools will be phased out by moving M3 level to S1, through a simple change in the age ranges for middle and senior schools. They will be replaced by schools for secondary school-aged pupils with an emphasis on specialised academic and technical education.

Presenting the bill on Monday, Senator Owen Darrell, the junior minister for education, began by quoting 60s activist Malcolm X.

“Education is the passport to the future because tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today,” he said.

Mr Darrell said that his two young children are being educated in the public school system – and that he wanted them and all children to have “a great future”.

He said: “We are redesigning, restructuring and re-envisaging public education.

“This Bill is the first phase of change to dramatically transform education and learning, to improve lifetime and outcomes for young people.

“We are putting young people at the centre of learning so that they are prepared to lead successful and meaningful lives.”

Mr Darrell described the legislation as “a bold vision of success” that will enable young people “to find their passions”.

He said that the Bill will reduce the age of senior school students from 14 to 13 and deliver signature programmes.

He added: “Some will ask, why this change? Why at this time? How and why will things be different when so many others have tried and not succeeded?

“The answer is not that complicated. Why? Because we recognise and accept that the world has changed fundamentally, and education in Bermuda has not.”

He said it would be easier to make small changes, “to tweak and tinker”, with the system and stay in our comfort zones.

“But who does that really serve?” he said.

Ms Darrell said that CedarBridge Academy and the Berkeley Institute will be the first signature schools next year, offering signature programmes linked to industries such as finance, tourism and the trades.

Independent senator Michelle Simmons, a former principal of Berkeley, said that she strongly supported plans to move M3 students back to senior school.

“This is a good change,” she said, adding it could reduce the gap in learning for middle school students.

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Published March 31, 2021 at 12:21 pm (Updated March 31, 2021 at 12:21 pm)

Sweeping education changes approved by Senators

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