By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Deputy Chief Reporter
THE government has budgeted $200,000 this fiscal year for a comprehensive review of the country's educational system, Education Minister Jeffrey Lloyd announced yesterday, as he painted a grim picture of the state of education, which he said is a "problem" based on "outdated" and "outmoded" methods.
This review, he said, will span two years and look at the existing curriculum from pre-school to high school.
While making his contribution to the 2017-2018 budget debate, Mr Lloyd said the Minnis administration could not allow a climate of academic failure and low graduation rates to continue as more than $300m is invested into education.
"At the forefront of this reform is a review and revision of the curriculum," he told Parliament yesterday. "The curriculum is an essential component which drives the educational system of a country. Each time there are changes or developments happening around the world, the school curricula are affected. Noteworthy is the fact that, it is through the curriculum that a country's national identity is preserved.
"Mr Speaker, it is the intention of my ministry through the Department of Education to aggressively embark upon a complete review of our existing curriculum, inclusive of pre-school through high school.
"Two hundred thousand dollars from my ministry's 2017-2018 budget allocation will be devoted to the commencement of the review and revision. The initial phase will take approximately two years."
The government also aims to end social promotion.
"This government recognises that promoting students who do not meet academic standards, puts students at a disadvantage by advancing them to a grade for which they are not prepared," Mr Lloyd said. "For many students, the ultimate consequence of the disastrous practice of social promotion is that they fall so far behind that they leave school ill equipped for college or university and they often lack the skills to join the workforce.
"A long-term goal of this government is the end of social promotion in the school system. We will work arduously toward providing the additional human and financial resources and classroom facilities to accommodate the students who are unable to advance in the system."
Mr Lloyd said he has also given a directive, that within 30 days, a concept paper on the creation of a division of technology in the Ministry of Education be presented to him so that it could be discussed with Cabinet.
The deficiencies prevalent in the existing system, Mr Lloyd told Parliament, has had bearing on the outcome of national examinations, specifically the Grade Level Assessment Test (GLAT), Bahama Junior Certificate (BJC) and the Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE) examinations and has impacted graduation rates from the past years.
According to the education minister, in the country's national exams, there have been dismal results at all levels.
While the 2017 results of these exams have not yet been complete, in 2016, 5,428 third grade students across the Bahamas sat the GLAT exam in English and mathematics. In those subjects, less than 65 per cent of those who sat the exam got a grade of A-D and over 37 per cent failed, Mr Lloyd said.
He added that at the sixth grade level 5,053 candidates registered to sit exams for four subjects, including English, math, science and social studies. Those grades were even worse. Less than 60 per cent received grades A-D and a startling 40 per cent failed, he said.
When it comes to the BJC examinations, in 2016, the results were not much different, Mr Lloyd said.
"Mr Speaker, in BJC, 64.3 per cent of the grades awarded were in the A-D, 35.7 per cent, which means one out of every three failed. In 2016, a mere 20 per cent that is 2,240 candidates, achieved a minimum grade of D or higher in five or more BJC subjects, one out of every five.
Regarding the BGCSE, he continued: "Although the total number of subjects offered were 27, the average number of subjects written per candidate was four, and in 2015 it was five.
"English language, biology, mathematics and religious studies have remained the subjects of choice for the vast majority of candidates, for the past few years; note however, no subject has a 100 per cent subscription rate.
"In 2016, a total of 1,459, or a mere 23 per cent of the candidates, obtained a minimum grade of D in at least five subjects. That is less than one in every four.
"A total of 903 candidates received at least C in five or more subjects in 2016. In other words, 14 per cent of the candidates that registered to take the BGCSE examination received at least a C in five or more subjects.
"Here's why that is important, sir, you need at least five subjects with a C grade to go to the University of the Bahamas. In 2015, 65 per cent of the 5,400 students sitting English language failed, 75 per cent of the 5,200 sitting math failed (and) 2016 did not see a much better outcome," Mr Lloyd said.