Students and teachers first
Having read the proposal for the introduction of parish primary schools and attended a consultation presentation, it’s official — the Government has announced its vision to invest taxpayers’ money in the physical buildings of Bermuda’s primary schools.
After the presentation, I reflected on my schooling, and the first recollections were my teachers, followed by my school friends, with the physical school building a distant memory. Which raises the question: why is the Government focused on expensive new buildings and isn’t publicly consulting on the next generation of teaching? It’s the quality of teaching that has the greatest impact on learning. It’s the teaching methods that promote the student “aha” moments in learning. It’s the teaching that generates actual understanding and learning, at least for me.
The Parish Primary School Proposal presenters made it clear: the objective of recent presentations is the physical plant, but it still left me wondering why we are talking about this exorbitant investment in buildings when children, parents and the community may be more concerned about who’s teaching them and what is being learnt? Why are educators spending time earmarking taxpayers’ money on buildings when the higher priority is the challenge to transform how children learn?
One webinar participant asked about the consistency in teaching: “Just when teaching gets started, it changes before the new method has a chance to work.”
Is this education reform merely an exercise in “the circle of life”? Parents, teachers and the community are seeking consistency and it is the Ministry of Education’s responsibility to research and adopt what is right for Bermuda. But the Government cannot accomplish this transformation on its own. The community has a role to play. Which raises the question: how do we leverage legally bound councils and boards to fulfil their obligations to education?
The Bermuda Educators Council immediately comes to mind as the opportunity for a statutory body made up of teachers, principals and community members to provide consistent professional development and to maintain high standards of teacher qualifications and registration.
The Bermuda Educators Council Act 2002 was enacted “to improve the standards of teaching and maintain and improve standards of professional conduct”.
It is the council’s responsibility to register all teaching applicants and publish a list of training programmes for educators.
Teacher training in a new methodology should begin through a series of professional development initiatives facilitated by the Bermuda Educators Council in collaboration with the Ministry of Education.
The unfortunate circumstance is that the BEC struggles to fulfil its statutory obligations. It may be time for parliamentarians to review the Bermuda Educators Council Act 2002 with the intention of making amendments and reviving the council’s accountability to teachers and the broader community.
There are a number of lower-cost priorities within the local education framework that the Government may consider improving before expensive investment in buildings. The establishment of an Independent Education Authority would be a good start. It could include oversight of statutory bodies including the Bermuda Educators Council, human resources for teachers, and listening to the advice from parent-teacher associations to name a few.
After all, it’s students and teachers first.
• Susan Jackson is an Opposition backbencher and the MP for Pembroke South West (Constituency 20)