By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE Ministry of Education is pushing to amend the current Education Act that will give “every four-year-old within the country” an opportunity for early education, Education Minister Jerome Fitzgerald said yesterday.
At a press conference at the Ministry of Education, Mr Fitzgerald said changes in the country’s education paradigm needed to occur at all levels – the most important being the “foundation years” to ensure the academic and social success of students.
Mr Fitzgerald also announced the official commissioning of the Pre-school and Daycare Council, the regulatory body for early and childhood education and care. This council will have “specific duties and responsibilities to ensure that the quality of education that pre-schoolers receive is not haphazard,” he said.
“We no longer want persons to think that pre-school and daycare centres are simply babysitting facilities where children are dropped off when parents go to work, but indeed these are centres which will build a strong educational foundation for our primary school and high schools to build upon,” he said.
“Part of the challenge we have in the Bahamas is that our Education Act now only requires us to educate kids between the age of five and 16. With now the introduction of the standards that have been set, we are pushing now to be in a position where we can afford every four-year-old within the country access to early childhood education.
“It will no longer be business as usual,” he added. “The pre-schools will now be an integral component of the learning path of our children.”
According to Mr Fitzgerald, the ministry’s idea for the expansion of pre-school education and subsequently a pre-school council started “about ten years” ago when then Education Minister Alfred Sears managed to negotiate a loan from the Inter-American Development Bank which facilitated the introduction of standards for future pre-school regulations.
In 2012, the government listed 11 education-based objectives expected to be achieved by 2017. One of those objectives was overseeing new standards for pre-school and early education.
“The Ministry of Education has been very aggressive over the last couple of years in the expansion of pre-schools in the Bahamas,” he said. “We know that kids that participate and attend pre-school, when they go into grade one they perform much better than those kids that have not. The research also shows that those kids who do take part in pre-school are more likely to go on to college and university, reduction in crime, obesity and all sorts of other health issues as well.
According to Mr Fitzgerald, the ministry will mainly focus on expanding government pre-schools throughout the country and providing “quality training for caregivers and privately owned and operated pre-schools and daycare centres.”
The council, led by co-chairs Roxanne Chipman and Agatha Archer, hosts ten other individuals from other government agencies and ministries, including the Ministry of Works, Health, and the Department of Social Services.