The education ‘status quo’ is failing children
Let me introduce you to Bermuda's new status quo — our public education.
For context, I refer you to the year 2013, when our public schools' mathematics and science results had a very poor IGCSE showing, with only 19 per cent of students getting grades of C and above for those subjects. (Most universities consider only grades ‘C' and above to be passing grades).
Using the Cambridge assessment system for middle schools performance, only 23 per cent reached a level 3 or above in English, and only 27 per cent reached that level in maths.
The Cambridge grading system defines:
• 1-2 = Poor
• 2-3 = OK
• 3-4 = Good
Here we are seven years later and it was recently reported that for the 2019 school year, none of the island's five public middle schools had an average pupils score above 3.0 in English or maths.
Clearwater (2.3), Dellwood (2.4), Sandys (2.9), TN Tatem (2.4), Whitney Institute (2.7).
Clearwater (2.1), Dellwood (2.2), Sandys (2.7), TN Tatem (1.6), Whitney Institute (2.4).
From 2013 to 2019, this is what is known as “maintaining the status quo”.
Looking back at 2013 under then Minister of Education Nalton Brangman, it was widely recognised that middle schools' teaching standards were a critical weakness in the public education system.
Also, a White Paper was produced for community-wide discussion — Getting it Right For Every Child — which focused directly on the need for addressing and implementing an inclusive and special education policy in our public-school system.
This discussion paper outlined the dire need and a way forward for our public-education system to meet the educational and developmental needs of all learners, including those who are gifted and/or experience barriers to learning.
The proposed timing of the implementation of such new policy was to be in phases, with full implementation by September 2016. What happened to this initiative? Was this yet another example of a useless government administrative exercise, which then became a “report” collecting dust? What lame, political doublespeak of an excuse will there be this time?
Last November, I wrote to this newspaper regarding the “cries” from teachers themselves that this issue of varying and special needs students is a huge challenge for them in the classroom — being expected to multitask in a way that adversely affects all student outcomes ultimately. Seven years have passed since that White Paper was presented. That is seven grade levels. That student who started in 2013 is now a teenager, who might have needed and benefited greatly from a targeted special education policy that was never implemented.
At the 2019 Progressive Labour Party delegates conference, David Burt told the audience that “Bermuda had two types of people”. Those for and those against a status quo that had disadvantaged its majority black residents.
The Premier told the crowd of supporters: “We must never lose sight of who the real enemies of progress are.”
I could not agree with him more. Political will is what will fix our failing education system. It was missing during the last administration and it appears to be absent in this one.