Letters to the Editor

We must rescue public education

Letters to the Editor

Dear Sir,

Public education in Bermuda has been the subject of much criticism over the past several decades and it is no secret that most of us, who are on the outside looking in, will say it has been failing many students and desperately needs reforming.

In addition to reading about the recent report on maths results in our public schools, (the worst in eight years), I happened to come across an online news story from Trevor Lindsay that literally blew my mind.

Mr Lindsay, whose online Facebook news website is “Bermuda News As It Happens” TNN, spoke with several seasoned teachers who are teaching within our public-education system and who wanted to share their views on various matters concerning their experiences. Here are a few statements from these teachers, which should make everyone very worried.

It was revealed by the teachers that there are some students who have IQs that are below 70, the terminology used to refer to these students being “Functional Skills Students”.

These students would normally be placed at the Dame Marjorie Bean Hope Academy. However, according to one teacher: “When the ministry implemented the inclusion policy, this is when the downfall began within our school system. This is when they started to intermingle capable children, who were either lazy, had social issues at home that were affecting their academics, or who had behaviour problems and spent most of their time outside of the classroom.”

The ministry then created a “Functional Academic” class and began lumping together these (capable) children who could not meet the curriculum, but who did not qualify to be in the “functional skills” category. These children travel throughout the system, reach senior school and are “graduated” despite not being able to read, write, spell or perform basic mathematics calculations.

Another teacher stated: “The children cannot read and write because the teachers do not have time to tend to these children due to the integration of children that have special needs in the classroom and the demand to follow a preset curriculum for students who are learning at a normal pace without outside challenges.”

One teacher remarked: “The ministry is creating an underclass of uneducated Bermudian children. This is sad and very worrisome for the future of our society. Children are graduating who can’t read, write or, if they can, they can’t spell to a level of graduating standard. We have a crisis on our hands, and many of the children coming into this failing system are coming from parents who were products of the same educational system, which in turn failed them. We wonder why our children are growing up and struggling with unemployment and turning to crime and selling drugs; it is because our education system is failing them.

“There are children literally effing off the teachers, and we are expected to fill out documentation to show a consistent pattern of behavioural problems and how these behaviours are handled. That is fine, but when there are three or four of those types of children in one class of 15 students, how are we even able to teach the rest of the children who are watching?”

This is a disturbing indictment of our education system and it is coming from the very people who are having to deliver it. I cannot imagine working in a system that blatantly fosters/accepts such mediocrity and, in some cases, outright failure. Here we are, with our island amid an economical and technological tsunami, trying to plant seeds to breathe life back into our economy and this disaster of a public-education system continues uninterrupted, with a performance “bar” that is lower than ever before.

I could not believe what I was reading in Mr Lindsay’s news post and, we know over the past 20 years, it is very clear that there has been no political will to do what is needed to fix education, which is unconscionable.

The Hopkins Report of 2007 discussed many of these issues and outlined recommendations for valuable improvement, but — like the Sage Report 2013 — it is collecting dust on a shelf.

No amount of our government ministers travelling the world, promoting the island for our new, third economic pillar, including hosting fintech conferences and legislating strict, cryptocurrency company registration regulations to lure reputable companies to settle here, will make a speck of difference in the lives of Bermudians if they are excluded from participating because of their lack of skill sets.

We have to take public education out of the bureaucratic quagmire that is strangling it. Bermuda’s future is in the balance.