We all sink during times of political and social instability
The formation of a public education trust fund could be a way of creating the capital necessary for the reformation of the public education system. It would also save middle-class parents from expending $500,000 in private school fees for two children, which could be better spent paying off a mortgage.
This charitable trust could be funded through the introduction of:
1, A capital-gains tax
2, The introduction of tax on capital and income distributions to trust beneficiaries
3, The introduction of tax on multiple commercial building ownership (and private residencies) by requiring a transparent Bermuda property register that legally binds the reporting of ownership interest, regardless if assets are layered in multiple companies and trusts
A Government-sponsored investigation into our public schools has revealed all the inadequacies, including the negligent state that some of the buildings are in and in many cases the lack of proper resources and insufficient access to computer labs that are not keeping up with ever-changing technological advances.
There are too many youngsters being left behind in our society and they eventually become adults not prepared to adapt to a sophisticated economy that requires a high degree of education to get jobs that provide for a good quality of life. It is without question that a large investment must be set aside to pay for a successful education reform.
The playing field for equal opportunity is still not even. What would really help is to have a Bermudian understanding that we all sink if we are politically and socially unstable.
Before we can reform education, we need to have the courage to recognise that there is a population of children in the public school system that, poorly estimated, represents about 20 per cent, and these few make it difficult for teachers to teach and for students to learn.
Difficult students need to be removed from mainstream education and given a unique opportunity to thrive in a smaller school setting that provides specialised teachers, counsellors, emphasis on music and the arts, state-of-the-art science, woodwork and computer labs, well-maintained cricket and football pitches and a recreation room with portable stage. Also yoga, meditation, fishing off docks and lectures in the outdoors or arranged on islands are worth considering. Some will call this pandering; I call it a lifeline. I did not have that lifeline when I was a teen, so I have a keen interest that others do.
The success or failure of reforming Bermuda's education system relies on the collaboration and inclusion of all its stakeholders. It requires the moral and political will of all Bermudians for its successful implementation. Finally, it requires us adults to stop being polarised.
Adjacent is a diagram that proposes some of the ideas that I have for education reform. It is to be hoped that it adds in a positive way to the conversation, vision and action of producing the best opportunities for our youngsters and that it prepares them adequately to enter the professional environment upon graduating.
I hope there is buy-in to the idea of establishing a public education trust fund that would not only support education reform but also include funding for existing primary school and secondary schoolteachers to advance from bachelor's degrees to master's degrees and for salaries to be on par with private sector salaries. I hope that we can look at successful countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development that rated high in the public education system and use them as our benchmark, in particular Finland, whose students rated the highest, yet had the least amount of private schools among the 30 nations.
I am convinced that equal education opportunities will result in equal job opportunities. Tax reform simultaneously introduced with education reform is an investment in our children that will yield political and economic stability in the future. It will provide international business with a well-prepared, groomed and intelligent workforce of Bermudians.
A successful public education system will lessen the need for working-class and middle-class parents to enrol their children in private schools, and will go a long way towards helping them to save for a house instead of spending it to educate their children.
Just as importantly, it will help towards integration and race relations, while reducing elitism. This can be achieved only if parents with children in private schools speak out to their government and opposition Members of Parliament, and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with parents that have children in public schools.
• Cheryl Pooley is a social commentator and three-times former parliamentary candidate