By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
EDUCATION Minister Jeffrey Lloyd yesterday staunchly defended the results of the 2020 national examinations, insisting the tests were a “success and remarkable accomplishment” despite the challenges of COVID-19.
Mr Lloyd defended this position while responding to public criticism regarding the examination results during a Ministry of Education press conference.
He was supported by other education officials, who attributed what they term as the 2020 exams’ “success” to officials being able to carry out the tests despite the ongoing pandemic, adding the focus should not be on the results.
“When we talk about the exams being a success, it is more than just looking at the students who got As, Bs, Cs, and Ds all right. We have to look at the mere fact that we were able to complete the examinations, administer the exam and complete it makes it a success,” said Assistant Director of Education Evelyn Sawyer.
Their comments come after the Ministry of Education released data last month that showed that national exam results worsened in 2020 compared with 2019, with fewer students achieving A, B and C grades and more students receiving D, E, F and G grades compared with the year before. Fewer students also sat the exams compared with the previous year .
The results have been heavily criticised, with Bahamas Union of Teachers President Belinda Wilson saying the national grades were not surprising and a result of a failed education system.
Yesterday, Mr Lloyd said while the country’s educational system is far from perfect, no one in the world can identify a perfect system especially in this current COVID-19 climate.
He said: “Perhaps some of you have heard the recent erroneous and misleading claims about the results of the 2020 national examinations. Well, I’m here today to set the record straight for those of you who want to listen to logical explanations. I’m the first to admit that The Bahamas’ system is not perfect. It has its share of challenges.
“I am also here to say that no one can identify any perfect education system. What they can find in education systems where students consistently perform well are these common denominators: the balance of political will, a bi-partisan shared vision for education, a high level of school leadership, the support of key stakeholders, excellent teachers and students and parents who appreciate and support the importance of education.”
Statistics released by the ministry also revealed that 10,753 people sat the BJC exams, representing a 3.62 percent decrease from 2019.
Meanwhile, the number of students sitting the BGCSE exams declined by 5.9 percent, with 6,073 candidates registered for the 2020 exams compared with 6,454 in 2019.
Yesterday, Mr Lloyd attributed the decreased numbers to the exams being postponed in response to COVID-19, among other things.
Despite reduced participation last year, the minister highlighted that there was improved performance in 15 BGCSE test subjects, including auto mechanics, biology, bookkeeping and accounts, etc.
He also noted that English language and literature performance has not changed.
“This is progress and it is indeed encouraging and speaks to the resilience of Bahamian educators and students,” Mr Lloyd stressed yesterday.
Overall, Mr Lloyd said officials were pleased with the overall examination process – saying it is as a testimony to the resilience of Bahamians.
“I declare unequivocally that the entire examination exercise was a success. It was worth the financial, emotional, mental, physical and psychological cost,” he said.
“It was a remarkable accomplishment that has clearly disappointed a fair number of naysayers. The task was what it has always been – to ensure that, upon completion of the examiner training, candidate sitting and the marking and grading of the numerous examinations, those who had opted to take them would receive valid and reliable results.”
Asked how officials were able to conclude that results were a success considering that the 2020 outcome worsened compared with 2019, Ms Sawyer replied Bahamians ought to look at the bigger picture and not just solely focus on the results.
She noted it was a great feat in itself that students were even able to sit the exams considering the extraordinary events of 2020.
She said: “A lot of our children do well but we always concentrate on what we consider to be the students who we say are doing poorly but when we consider what our children went through during 2020, it was remarkable that they were able to write the examination.
“So, we really do not need to look at the grades which the children got, but look at the resilience of our children and what they were able to accomplish and this indicates it was a success.”
Yesterday, Mr Lloyd called for more unity and partnership from the Bahamian public, insisting education “is everyone’s business.”
“No one has the luxury to sit on the sidelines and complain, criticise or throw jeers. Everyone must get involved,” he added. “The question then to each of us is: are we all doing our part to ensure that these common denominators are a part of The Bahamas’ education system? That’s the question.”
The 2021 national examinations are expected to take place in their usual timeframe this year, with the minister telling reporters last month that Cambridge evaluators and assessors have been working to secure this year’s exams on time.