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Call for better technology in schools

Better technology in public schools — equipping students for success in the 21st century — has emerged as a key demand at community conversations set up by the Department of Education.

The need for more consistent leadership and greater equity across public schools were other issues raised in the meetings, designed to help formulate a strategic plan for public education.

This is according to education commissioner Freddie Evans and teaching expert Jeremiah Newell, who was speaking with The Royal Gazette for the first time since he arrived on the island to facilitate the plan with the help of community engagement.

High on the agenda for the parents, teachers and students who have participated throughout the past few weeks is the provision of classroom infrastructure and technological facilities.

Dr Evans said: “Looking at our facilities is a consistent effort. We want to have the technology in the schools, the access to the science labs. That keeps on coming up — it is an echo of what the Score [School Reorganisation] report did in looking at the primary schools.

“There is a lot of demand for some kind of technical product — whether it is a technical institute or more tech in schools. Once we decide what all this information tells us, we can begin to operationalise and address it.”

Dr Newell added: “We have heard a lot about modernisation and infrastructure with the use of technology and materials and structural tools that can be used to meet the 21st-century preparation. We have to modernise that.”

Many have likened the education ministry to a revolving door, with Cole Simons becoming the twelfth minister in 19 years two months ago.

Dr Newell, a graduate of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, told The Royal Gazette: “I have seen a desire that there is consistent leadership to move this forward and we need to know that we are going to see this through. The community is saying whatever is getting in the way, and we need to address it, regardless of who is in charge at that moment.

“What they are saying consistently across the island is that they are expecting the government of the day to enable those things to happen.

“It is important that communities are demanding improvement, and have ideas about how it happens.”

Dr Evans, who has been actively involved with the conversations along with Dr Newell, said the option of removing politics by introducing an independent public school system, an idea suggested by Mr Scott, was not off the table.

He added: “Maybe education should be independent like the Bermuda Tourism Authority and be able to run autonomously outside of the scope of the politicians and government of the day.”

Equity across the public schools is also a cause for concern, with many stakeholders questioning why the standards are not consistent. Dr Newell said: “If there is one public education system, why are there variations between our schools? People are saying ‘we want the same opportunities offered in private schools, we want the opportunity that once we leave school we are ready to be employed'.” One more area of discussion has been the need to further ensure that Bermuda's public schools are able to cater for the diverse needs of its students.

“Schools are not one size fits all — they are places where the unique strengths of young people can be explored: technical, in the arts, vocational. We are embracing new kinds of learning — coding and technology reflecting the workforce as it is changing globally and helping our students to become global citizens.

“We must provide music and art programmes allowing artists to develop and demonstrate their gifts. I was speaking to one student who told me he wanted to be able to compete locally and internationally.”

Frank and open discussion is being encouraged by all stakeholders. Some 40 community conversations have taken place so far and more than 1,200 surveys regarding public education have been filled out. The next step will be the creation of multiple drafts and prototypes which will receive feedback before being revisited.

Anyone wishing to host community conversations can call Lisa Smith at the ministry at 278-3300. She will provide a facilitator and scribe.

The Board of Education invites the public to visit to complete a strategic planning survey on public education in Bermuda.

Jeremiah Newell and Freddie Evans (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published May 04, 2017 at 9:00 am (Updated May 04, 2017 at 9:12 am)

Call for better technology in schools

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