Al Seymour

Our troubled schools system

There must be something wrong with our education system when in the year 2019 there is constant bickering between the Government and those on the front lines of the teaching profession over numerous concerns, including school conditions and new methods of implementing teaching techniques said to improve standards.

Most Bermudians have no problem with efforts to raise standards designed to better equip students to meet challenges in a highly competitive world. While all that is positive and good, beneath the surface there have been problems involving the condition of school buildings, along with classroom behaviour problems that add to challenges most teachers deal with on a daily basis.

Education is a highly complex operation, involving far more than most us are aware of, not being directly involved. As top education officials wrestle with issues, seeking ways to improve the process amid distractions nonexistent decades ago, finding solutions to ensure progress will remain one of our biggest challenges. Anyone can find fault and level criticism, but helping to make things better is another matter.

In recent decades, even with different governments, a revolving-door dilemma resulted in education ministers coming and going amid what appeared to be confusion over the challenge to implement policies that would be effective in keeping the system moving in a positive direction. Easier said than done with so many factors involved.

Most of us are not experts when it comes to complex problems that teachers are confronted with regularly, but that is no reason to be reluctant to express concern about whether more could be done to provide them with the very best conditions to conduct their profession in a manner that should also benefit students.

Old school buildings with disturbing issues of corrosion and health-threatening conditions certainly have added to what is already a serious problem for teachers and students, as the closing of TN Tatem Middle School resulted in having to relocate operations to Dellwood Middle School.

For several years, TN Tatem was the subject of several news stories, regarding unhealthy corrosion within the ageing building. There were no easy solutions for any government, but there were always questions over whether fresh paint and some makeshift repair work fell terribly short in addressing problems deep in the school structure.

Eventually, the Government had little choice but to shut the building completely for the safety of teachers and students. However, putting two large schools under one roof, with the sharing of classrooms, would have its own challenges — and that’s another story.

This should never become a political bouncing ball because the issue rises above both the Government and the Opposition. More than ever, a bipartisan approach is needed in dealing with the vital role education plays in preparing for leaders of tomorrow. No one has all the answers, but together much more could be achieved.

Even under the best school conditions these days, teachers are confronted with having to cope with unruly students who have little or no fear of authorities, and that can hinder the learning process for other students.

Only teachers on the front line know this issue best. Our education system should always be closely connected to parents and guardians because the system in a sense has roots in the home. So much has changed over the years, that in today’s world, teachers have more than academics to be concerned about.

Yes, there are success stories where students strive to remain focused on doing their best — and that is always encouraging. However, students and teachers will need constant support from the Government, parents and the community to keep the system on track.

Our education system is not perfect, but working together as a concerned community willing to discuss any issue, no matter how sensitive, can open more doors of understanding to cope with challenges. Our teachers and students deserve nothing less in preparing for the next generation.

Bermuda can and must do better in ensuring that our system produces not only good, successful students, but good citizens as well.