By DANA SMITH
Tribune Staff Reporter
RESPONDING to this year’s bleak results and statistics from the BJC and BGCSE examinations, Senator Desmond Bannister called on parents to recognise the importance of education in their children’s lives and to encourage academic focus.
The former Education Minister said parents are “failing our children” and also commended the Education Ministry and its Minister Jerome Fitzgerald for not releasing a national average.
“The whole idea of a national grade average was a stupid idea, that’s why we discontinued it,” Mr Bannister said. “If the minister didn’t give it, I applaud him for it because it was really a stupid thing to lump every child and every examination together and put it under one grade.”
He said a national average was “the silliest thing that we ever did” and noted that “no other country in the world does it” and there is no scientific basis of doing it.
As for the depressing revelation that more than half of all government school students are awarded a leaving certificate versus a high school diploma, and that students are averaging Ds and Es in both the BGCSE and BJC English and Mathematics exams, Mr Bannister explained that parents share the blame.
“Many of our parents are failing our children and as we’re looking forward to a new school year, something has to be done to get Bahamian parents to understand the value and importance of their children and their children’s education,” he said.
“When that happens you’re going to see a tremendous turnaround because instead of a focus on (brand name clothing), you’re going to see a focus on quality academic preparation and performance.”
However, the former minister did take time to recognise the students who did accomplish admirable grades in their exams.
“I want to just commend the students who did well because there are so many students who did. A lot of times we overlook those students.
“Particularly we have schools such as S C McPherson, C V Bethel, C R Walker, which always have outstanding results – exceptional results – I want to commend them and commend the teachers,” Mr Bannister said.
“But I also want to say we have to find a way to get more parents interested and involved in that education process. I think that is the big challenge.”
Last year, then minister Mr Bannister revealed that students were still performing poorly in core subjects averaging Ds and Es in the BGCSE English and Mathematics exams. His announcement sparked widespread public debate on the matter.
This time, current minister Mr Fitzgerald announced education statistics reveal little change, with English showing an average of D and Mathematics with an average of E+.
English, which had 5,009 candidates, has shown the same average since 2010. Mathematics however, with 4,711 candidates, improved compared to 2011 and 2010, which saw students average an E-.
The BJC examination also saw a decrease of 4.31 per cent in candidates. This year 9009 students registered compared to 2011’s 9,415.
Math scores improved for BJC from an E+ to a D and English made little improvement showing an average of D+ from D.
Mr Fitzgerald said the government will still be working to improve the results for years to come with a focus on foundational classes that include grades one to three.
When asked why no national average would be announced, Mr Fitzgerald said he was unsure of the reasoning.
“I would have to talk more within the ministry,” he said. “I haven’t discussed it in the ministry as for the reason why they decided to stop doing that, but it is something I would look into and I don’t want to comment on that until I have a clearer understanding of that.
“I can tell you I have been focused on prioritising what I need to do as far as getting the schools up and running for September.”