Opinion

Is the education minister asleep on the job?

  • Educational challenges: Cole Simons says teachers are being ignored

I am not surprised at the present state of affairs that have led the Bermuda Union of Teachers taking “appropriate action” because this photo-op Minister of Education and his government’s main priority is to eliminate the middle schools and provide free funding to those students accepted to attend the Bermuda College.

Admittedly, while some of these initiatives are positive, the minister has failed miserably to do the heavy lifting by paying attention to and addressing the fundamental challenges of our educational system.

He has not listened to the principals and teachers since he has been in office. He surely knew what the issues were when he was in the Opposition, but now that he is minister he has discounted them and hence the sad state of affairs that we have today.

This is indicative of a government that has not listened to any of the leading stakeholders in education. All they want to do is ram through their narrow political educational agenda, and not address the substantive issues.

It is time for the minister to commit his time, energy and resources to priorities three and four of the 2022 educational plan:

• Enhancing the quality of teacher practice and system leadership

• Improving infrastructure and instructional resources

These priorities are simply not being addressed by this government.

The minister must open the lines of communication between the Department of Education and the principals and teachers so that, as a team, they can get the best outcomes for our students and the delivery of educational services in Bermuda.

The existing one-way system of communications is not working and is unacceptable. It is a very sad day when the school principals and teachers take or threaten industrial action within weeks of each other.

They are both tired and have had enough. They are tired of very long hours and of being ignored. They are tired of the faulty roll-out and implementation of new systems, such as the performance-based grading.

The BUT is absolutely correct: teachers should have the right tools and the right environment to educate our young people. By not doing so, our students suffer.

The BUT is correct when it says there are “problems with the physical plant at schools, such as windows not working properly — for years in some schools — and fire alarms also not working in some schools.

“There are old computers, which often do not have functioning software or lack appropriate software, a lack of access for all staff to wi-fi and a lack of working overhead projectors, smart boards and printers”.

It is totally unacceptable, from a human resources perspective that the ASD [Autism] programme teachers “have no breaks, including lunch, no preparation time and lack of adequate staffing”. It is also unacceptable that para-educators are working without a job description and many do not have breaks from their assigned students, and are not given their full entitlements under the collective bargaining agreement.

These issues are all substantive fundamental issues, which should have been addressed by the ministry and his team when they were brought to his attention months ago.

Is he asleep on the job, or does he not care about what our principals and teachers have to say, as they have raised these issues with the ministry time and time again?

Cole Simons is the Shadow Minister of Education and the MP for Smith’s South (Constituency 8)