DESPITE the government’s increased spending on education, public schools continue to release more students into the community without the required skills in reading, writing and arithmetic.
It is true that there is high unemployment, but it is also true that jobs exist that can’t be filled by many of those unemployed because they do not have the required skills.
Today, the government released the dismal results of the 2013 BJC and BGCSE results. In the past several years, embarrassed by the dropping grades, the government has refused to release the national grade average. However, we were told that those amazing grades were still hovering between D and D-.
Education Minister Jerome Fitzgerald seemed desperate to find at least one spark of hope, but the best he could do was note a few subjects that inched up from C- to C or D to D+. Not good enough to sustain a growing country, crying out for qualified Bahamians.
Although Mr Fitzgerald was not concerned about the national average, he was concerned that youth leaving grade 12 were not “functionally literate or numerate”.
Mr Fitzgerald said that such a situation was a major concern to him, and his ministry. Of more importance, however, is the major concern for this country.
With incompetents leaving school, and draconian Immigration laws, government can talk about major investors coming in, but how are they to operate without a qualified labour force? Is the Bahamas to tread water until its citizens measure up, or is someone going to make the Immigration Ministry aware of the realities of its labour force, and the urgent need to supplement it with more qualified people of whatever nationality. The private schools cannot keep businesses supplied with the staff they need, public schools will have to start pulling their weight.
“Our concern,” said the Education Minister, “is that 30 per cent continue to fall through the cracks and not do well – that’s at the BJC level. By the time they get to the BGCSE level, we have, what we know, is almost 50 per cent of students who leave only with a leaving certificate – which means they don’t meet the requirement to graduate.”
All this certificate means is that each morning they walk through the front door, shout “present” when their name is called, and each afternoon they leave through the back door. In the interim, they fail to take any education with them. In other words, that certificate is only their attendance record.
These are the young people the country should worry about. They apply for a job, a worthless certificate in hand, as proof of qualifications. When turned down, they complain that they are being discriminated against — a foreigner is filling the post. The tragedy is that these students believe that this worthless piece of paper is a door opener to any job they might desire. It seems they are the only ones who don’t know that it might have been smarter to have left their certificate at home, and try to charm their way through an office door on “mother’s wit”.
At one time, we had good teachers — both Bahamian and foreign, but more foreign, because in certain subjects there were not enough Bahamians — sometimes there were none.
And then the Immigration crunch came. Foreign teachers were no longer recruited so that Bahamians who were qualifying in education could be accommodated. Some of these were good, some were mediocre, but others, as in all walks of life, just did not cut the mustard. Regardless, however, they entered the classroom.
With these unacceptable results, the first consideration has to be the teachers. Are they of the calibre to inspire the children to learn? Are they truly dedicated teachers who have a real interest in the success of their students, or are they clock watchers who are just treading water?
Then one has to look at the size of the classroom and the calibre of students being mixed together. Are the academic students being held back by others who would prefer learning a trade? If so, then these classes in fairness to both types of students should be divided — one concentrating on academics, the other on whichever skills a student might have a bent for.
The curriculum has also to be studied to make certain that it is wide enough to graduate an educated person. Reading, reading and more reading on a variety of subjects – including the history of these islands – should be encouraged. And high on the list, Ethics should be taught in all schools, as well as the duty of a good citizen.
And finally, those who make immigration decisions for schools and businesses have to be more realistic and not hold the country back to accommodate their idealistic dreams of what the work force should be, but is not.
Between poor school results and an immigration department out of tune with the needs of the country, the Bahamas faces an uphill struggle.