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Education in The Bahamas: Ignorance Is Not Bliss


Bahamas educationEducation in The Bahamas is in a terrible state.

The website for the Ministry of Education was quick to put up a picture of the new Minister for Education, Jerome Fitzgerald. But almost no other area of the site has been updated for years.

Oh, and an error message pops up on nearly every page that one visits.

The amateurish, poorly designed, poorly constructed website says volumes about why education in The Bahamas is failing.

The people in charge have their priorities wrong.

Over the past thirty-odd years, there have been numerous studies, committees, commissions, reports, etc., on the problems in the Bahamian education system.  Many of these efforts have reached similar conclusions and, it seems, most have been ignored.

However, one doesn’t need to read any of the many damning reports on education in The Bahamas, or even finish reading this blog article to realize what’s wrong with Bahamian education… paralysis by analysis!

Now, the PLP has confirmed their promise to double the amount of money spent on education in The Bahamas.

But there is no need to do so.  What is really needed is to use the funds being currently spent more wisely… much more wisely.

Many Bahamians believe that a major problem with public education today is a lack of focus on results. Students aren’t expected to meet high standards and the process of education takes precedence over analyzing education results in policy-making circles.

Another school of thought, put forth by Mr Fitzgerald, talks about the need to change what we teach and how we teach it, to better position our kids for competition in the real world.

In a recent Punch column, Nicki Kelly elaborates on this, pointing out that students are being educated to prepare them for university when, in reality, almost 90 percent of the students will forego college and enter the job market immediately after leaving high school. And they will do so without any real marketable skills.  She suggests that supplementing academics with vocational training may be more productive.

Back in 2007, in an article entitled “The Problems of Bahamian Education“, blogger/columnist Larry Smith wrote:

“This year alone the government will spend $265 million on scores of public schools (and the College of the Bahamas) to educate more than 50,000 students. Yet experts say this massive investment is producing a growing underclass of functional illiterates who are virtually unemployable.  Smith wrote:

“That’s the startling verdict that is consistent with the research commissioned by a respected private sector group called the Coalition for Education Reform. This alliance of key labour and business leaders has been calling for dramatic education reforms over the past three years, but public officials don’t seem to be listening.”

By the way, the Coalition, whose initiative was triggered by the crippling shortage of qualified Bahamians to fill jobs, issued their first (22-page) report in 2005. But Coalition leaders – including Barrie Farrington of Kerzner International and the late hotel union president Pat Bain – were unsuccessful in efforts to meet with government ministers and officials to discuss their findings.

The Coalition’s second report, titled, “Bahamian Youth: The Untapped Resource” concluded with these statements:

“Today there is a large ‘education’ bureaucracy, a strong union and inflexible laws that govern employment. The bureaucracy, union and the politicians must be convinced that their long-term self-interest can be best served by their support of this great endeavor; and they with the broader community must take the necessary steps to make it happen.

“Somehow the country must awaken to the need to make hard decisions. Failure to do so means lower economic growth and increased social instability.”

A year later, Author and Coalition member, Ralph Massey issued a public policy paper titled, “Educational Achievement in The Bahamas“.

Mr Massey proffered reasons why politicians fail to make the changes necessary in educational reform.  Understanding that Bahamians aren’t fond of criticsm, he started by saying:

“The purpose of this study is to confront a reality and raise an issue that may make all Bahamians uncomfortable simply because it is considered to be an unsolicited criticism of Bahamian life.

“Nevertheless, this Study addresses the present state of ‘Educational Achievement’ in the Bahamas with the hope of raising awareness and producing a public consensus that will support change because substantive and constructive change is so needed.”

Mr Massey’s report was apparently ignored by the powers that be.

Even before the coalition was formed, the late great Dr. Keva Bethel wrote a comprehensive report on “Educational Reform in The Bahamas“.

Dr Bethel referred to the numerous studies that had been undertaken and reports that had been published, most of which were also apparently ignored.

In 1972, the Ministry of Education published “Focus on the Future“, its White Paper on Education, in which were outlined the plans for the development of education in an independent Bahamas.

This was right before Lynden Pindling initiated what some call the “dumbing down of Bahamians”.

In 1974, there was the “Maraj Report” prepared by a review team headed by Dr. James Maraj, the then Assistant Commonwealth Secretary General. The team brought together representatives from universities in the West Indies, the United Kingdom and Canada and the group’s mandate was to review progress made to date in the implementation of the provisions of the White Paper on Education. The recommendations of the report were comprehensive but beaurocracy prevented many of the recommendations from ever being enacted.

In the early 1980s, the World Bank undertook a preliminary study as preparation for a major project designed to strengthen technical and vocational education in the country.  Dr Bethel described the futility of that effort:

“The impetus provided, however, proved difficult to sustain in all areas and the need for renewed attention to this aspect of education continued throughout the period. Further, initiatives taken to improve the planning and statistical functions of the Ministry – important to support this and other forms of educational development – resulted in few substantive changes.”

So, here we are thirty years later, with no significant progress having been made and Ms Kelly in the Punch calling for the same improvements.

In the mid-1980s, UNESCO provided the Commonwealth of The Bahamas with a sector review that emphasized the need for greater coordination among external projects and avoidance of duplication of efforts.

Studies were conducted also at the local level. Two national task forces were set up in 1981, one to examine matters pertaining to teacher education and the other to study issues related to examinations. Further, during the 1980s, the annual national education conferences were revived and during those events new policy directions were articulated by successive Ministers of Education.

Again, no significant improvements in educational reform were realized.

There were also two additional studies, conducted by researchers at The College of The Bahamas in the early 1980s, focused on the decline of qualified teachers.

Then, there was the Task Force established in 1981 to study issues related to the training of Bahamian teachers.

Yet, we still have hordes of unqualified teachers and, more disturbing, far too many instances of sexual abuse from perverted teachers.

The sector report prepared by UNESCO in 1986, also noted that the quality and relevance of programs offered had not always been “in sufficient harmony with the needs of a rapidly changing society”.

They still aren’t.

The National Task Force on Education discovered, in 1993, that the curriculum guidelines developed by the Ministry of Education in 1985 had still not been implemented. And that there were numerous so-called “preschools” with operators who were frequently persons of limited or no training.

In 1994, the Task Force on Education, after having both analyzed available documentary material and conducted widespread consultations with significant groups of individuals and with members of the general public throughout the islands, recommended more meaningfully involvement of communities in the educational system that served them.

That went nowhere as Dr Bethel describes in her report:

“Despite these varied efforts made to improve Bahamian public primary education, dissatisfaction continued to persist concerning the actual levels of achievement of students, especially in the core subjects of Language Arts and Mathematics.”

The Task Force also found that the performance of public school students in both the 3rd and 6th grade GLAT (Grade Level Assessment Test) was significantly lower than that of independent school counterparts.

19 years later, and the problem still exists.

In 2009, Tribune columnist Adrian Gibson wrote:

“Education is truly the great equalizer but, if the stakeholders in education do not have an appreciation for or a grasp of 20th century professor Emile Durkheim’s sociology of education, we should expect to produce illiterate and mathematically-challenged graduates who can barely take menial jobs and to see more years of failing grades.

“Frankly, many students fail the national exams because they simply cannot read! This must be corrected from the elementary level on up to senior high (even college) with an increased focus on reading comprehension in a child’s formative years.”

Was anybody listening?

Also, in 2009, Dr Ken Knowles wrote a letter that was published in the Tribune titled, “Bahamas education – it is not acceptable”:

“The National Education Summit demonstrated once again how we Bahamians love to fool ourselves into complacency. We actually believe our own propaganda that wonderful things are being achieved by our public education system.  Until we call a spade a shovel, very little is likely to change and all too many of our little darlings will remain semi-literate & semi-numerate.

“After 36 years of independence we should be ashamed of ourselves & not congratulating ourselves in self-denial.  We must face the fact that a serious problem exists in our system as only then can a solution be found & implemented successfully.”

So, here’s the prescription for educational reform:

1.  First, we need to admit that education in The Bahamas is all but a total failure, despite the hundreds of millions, maybe billions, of dollars that have been spent over the years.

2.  We need to reinvent the educational system from the ground up, not just throw more good money after the bad.

3.  We need to make sure that Perry Christie and Jerome Fitzgerald do not waste any more of our time or money on commissions, committees or reports.

Instead, they both need to read the many, many reports and findings that have come before them, and start implementing some of the recommendations that have been ignored for decades.

What we need here, is a little less talk and a little more action, please.

Have ideas on how to make education better in The Bahamas?

Tell us about them below.

31 thoughts on “Education in The Bahamas: Ignorance Is Not Bliss

  1. Our education is desperately in need of an overhaul and throwing more money at the issue is not the answer. We have to actually follow some of advice set out in the many reports that have been compiled over the years. New reports will only echo the old. I agree, time for action, I’m tired of our children growing up stupid. They are the future of the nation and it is frightening.

    Prime Minister Christie has a second chance, let’s see what he can do. There could be no greater legacy to leave behind than to fix the broken education system and give the average Bahamian child a real chance.

  2. Paralysis by analysis indeed! But it also has to do with politicians making the wrong decisions and too many hands in the cookie jar.

  3. Before any more time is spent blaming teachers, I would like to insert by 2 cents. I have many degrees and am even a professional in another field. I am also a teacher in The Bahamas public school system. I would say that the behavior of Bahamian students is outrageous. Many days, I feel that we may very well have some of the most misbehaved, undisciplined, uncaring students on the face of planet Earth.

    As I said before, I have many degrees from the most expensive and best schools the US has to offer. I am, beyond a shadow of a doubt, 100% certain that, at least in high school, the teachers are in no way, shape or form the problem. We must disengage from this enticing horse we’ve been galloping on for so long of blaming teachers. The blame is completely on the outrageous emotional state of the students. I use the term “outrageous” because it is the only one that comes close to describing their behavior. Were you to film the behavior of public school students: their complete lack of respect for teachers and each others, along with their complete abhorrence for study and trying their best, you would turn your head in disgust. Please do not waste any more of your time blaming teachers. I assure you they are not the problem. Rather, turn to the real issue: Bahamian students are outrageous!

    1. Thank you for your comment. I fully agree! I did not mean to “blame” teachers per se, except to note that there are too many unqualified teachers, and a few perverted ones. But that is a smaller part of the problem compared to the mismanagement and lack of direction by administrators, and the folly of politicians.

      Many students have completely lost interest in education and their respect for authority. This has to do with deep-seated social ills and extremely poor parenting. You don’t have to tell me how outrageous these kids are when 8 people were shot, in one incident, in a local nightclub just the other night.

      That will be the subject of a future blog. Thanks again for your input.

  4. I am 34 years old, a product of our education system. I do agree that the whole system needs to be overhauled. It simply does not work. I have a desire to archive a bachelor degree, but because of my reading level, which I can estimate to be at grade 10, it has being difficult to say the least. I continue to try to remedy this problem. Only because of my determination I am able to get by.

    What happened to the education system when Sir Lynden Pindling, Sir Milo Butler and Hubert Ingraham were in school? Where have the old Government High School gone? Something is seriously wrong with this picture. My hope is that the Government would at lease make an Associate degree level education more accessible to Bahamians who want it.

  5. A great article but not the first of its kind. Sadly, for a number of years, articles such as this, not to mention the numerous studies and subsequent reports, have indicated the desperate state of education in this country….but all to know avail.

    When are we going to have a government (and I don’t care if they are red, yellow, green or blended together to make brown!) that will take this crisis seriously? Pouring on more funding in an effort to “patch” the situation is definitely not the answer. The problem is fundamental and exists at every level of our educational system – i.e. the unruly children who are the products of poor parenting.

    Children with poor/no social skills are greatly challenged when it comes to learning. Teachers should not be expected to teach children how to behave – that is the responsibility of the parents. So, maybe the immediate focus needs to be shifted to improving parenting skills first, whilst intensive research begins/continues on creating a national curriculum (geared for preschoolers through to secondary students) that will meet the demands of the 21st century, both locally and globally. Such a task requires the expertise and experience of local AND foreign educators – politicians with no background in education should remain on the periphery.

    I am a retired teacher with a huge concern about the state of education in my country… I am convinced that it is the root cause of the increasing social ills and until it is seriously addressed there is little hope for a brighter future.

    Dealing with a problem of such magnitude will take years before positive results are seen and so, action needs to be taken…NOW!

    1. Amen. Social ills are the root cause and need to be addressed in conjunction with educational reform. NOW! is the key word.

    2. Absolutely Mrs. Lever.

      As a result of so many single parent homes, why not keep the kids in until 6pm so they can do their homework and those kids that are behind can be helped?

      I realise parents need to be involved, but as we know, that ain’t happening.

      1. That’s a good idea and it could be monitored by teaching assistants, to keep the cost down and not overwork the already overworked teachers. But still, discipline is a problem. Too many thugs and hooligans who need to be taught some manners.

    1. To be honest, I got some great ideas for this post from the NI website. I suggest people visit the site and click the “Education” category.

  6. The culture of the Bahamas underpins the problems in education we experience. The culture of a nation, that does not VALUE education or learning in general.

    The culture of a country that has sold its soul to tourism and also demands that its citizenry be conformist and parishioners for other cultures and their desire for leisure and pleasure at our expense.

    Why is it that students place greater VALUE on the brand of shoes they wear or the cost incurred to acquire uniform when those things are only meant to bring them in a classroom to be educated which seems to have the least value at all.

    But hey, why get a good education or learn for ones personal growth and our collective good when your future is making beds or serving cocktails as has been dictated by our leaders who’s political platforms are more intent on finding jobs rather than finding the potential and passion of our people.

    Why is it when we talk about culture we inevitable end up talking about Junkanoo? When will we realize we are more than shakers & movers or a spectacle for the amusement of others?

    Lets focus on what we value, what is collectively us, collectively ours. Lets build that, and grow it, and share it with the world.

    PS – Good read, thanks for writing and posting it.

  7. Education is at the basis for all social interaction. If one cannot read or write properly one is totally diminished and cannot plan for one’s future. I agree with the three suggestions. Also I would suggest that at the age of 12, counsellors check each student as to their talents so they can focus their energies in that area. A special department for Technical Studies is a MUST. More than half the students will become plumbers, electricians, IT mechanics, painters etc. These are skills which are required and will earn them a living.

    1. The Coalition for Education Reform came about in the main as a result of many discussions between Pat Bain, president of the Bahamas Hotel Catering & Allied Workers Union and me, then president of the Bahamas Hotel Employers’ Association while in the midst of negotiating for a new industrial agreement for the hotel industry.

      Based upon documented data regarding the difficulty in recruiting literate and skilled workers in the industry, we acknowledged that the problem was widespread throughout the business community.

      We also acknowledged that our collective and primary responsibility was to engage in nation building. We therefore, decided that the message on education reform had to be delivered to all sectors of the country from a united platform.

      Although, in my opinion, what we accomplished has never been realized, it was indeed a history making occurrence; the establishment of the Coalition For Education Reform. This coalition comprised The Bahamas Hotel Catering and Allied Workers Union, Bahamas Hotel Employers’ Assn, the National Congress of Trade Unions (NCTU) representing 23,000 plus workers, the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce, Nassau/Paradise Island Promotion Board, the Nassau Downtown Development Board, Bahamas Employers Confederation and the Bahamas Hotel Association. We were determined to get the messages right and to assist us in this work we engaged Ralph Massey to provide research expertise.

      After much work within and outside of the coalition, we produced and presented the Report in 2005, “Bahamian Youth: The Untapped Resource”. We embarked upon a campaign of publicizing the Report throughout the country.

      When we presented to the Minister of Education, the President of the Teachers Union was sitting beside me. This is just one significant event in what we were committed to doing.

      Despite our best efforts, plus updating the Report in 2007, the political directorate failed to grasp the enormity of what Unions & Employers had created. We had within our grasp an opportunity to have broad based participation in producing a new culture for education reform.

      Pat Bain, as president of the NCTU & BHCAWU, now deceased, took a bold and decisive step toward a better Bahamas.

      I still shake my head in disbelief that there was no embracing of our work, nationally.

      The Report is worth a read and can be found on the website of the Bahamas Hotel Association.

      1. Thank you for your comment. Indeed, it is a shame that such an opportunity was squandered, despite such great efforts. Hopefully, the new government will dust off that report and implement some of the recommendations. Much of what is contained in the report is still valid and would go a long way towards education reform.

  8. There is no doubt that many of our 5 year olds are entering a grade one environment unprepared for the structure of a classroom or the expectations placed upon them. They are desperately in need of either a K curriculum with a trained teacher’s aide to support a teacher who is prepared to adjust her teaching style to accomodate student’s unpreparedness, or a K classroom geared towards building their skills.

    Perhaps Ministry of Education should question IF these children are receiving INTERVENTION in their formative years, and if not, allocate funds and portable classrooms into communities where children have access to a FREE STANDARDISED NATIONAL K CURRICULUM thus our teachers have a better chance of developing their reading skills and these children are not retained and then pushed on illiterate to the end!

  9. Just under an hour ago, as I was on my way home, I saw a very young baby sitting on the edge of the road. This child looked to be about 2 yrs old. I immediately stopped my car out of concern and asked the child where his mother was. He looked at me then picked up a handful of stones and threw it at my car and poked his tongue at me. I scolded him and as I proceeded to get out of my car I saw a young adult couple snuggling on the porch. I asked them if the baby belonged to them and they immediately started screaming at the child to get his @%\*! In the house.

    They did not see the need to move but rather screamed obscenities which were ignored by the child. I picked up the child and took him over to the young couple. The young lady yanked him from my arms, spanked him and sent him into the house screaming. I got no acknowledgement from them – not even a “thank you, Ma’am”!

    And we wonder why our children are killing each other, and cannot cope in the workplace, and aren’t able to submit to authority, and are unable to focus long enough to be able to read? It starts in the home. Our poor teachers are not equipped to take on this monster! They are forced to spend significant time and effort trying to introduce some level of discipline to these unruly students because it is absent from the home. We can’t fix the problem if we ignore the root cause. We must hold our parents responsible and accountable.

    I would suggest that a long term national drive is initiated by the government to focus on effective parenting. Education and awareness needs to start with the very basics as we have seemingly lost a whole generation through broken family structures resulting in young kids bringing up other kids – a recipe for disaster! I would suggest placing extreme focus in this area and engaging all social and religious groups otherwise, we will continue throwing good money down the drain if we continue to ignore the real issues!

    1. Parenting is, without a doubt, a key factor. Poor parenting and broken families are the root of our social ills, which must be addressed as part of the education problem, they are cojoined. Thank you for sharing your story and for your comments.

  10. I took my daughter to take the SAT this past Saturday. The facilitator showed up an hour late. Rushed through directions, interrupted the students while taking the exam and did not give the proper breaks – to name a few of the problems. So, one problem with the “Bahamian Youth” is the “Bahamian Adults” Late, unorganized and stupid.

    My daughter, while waiting for the tardy facilitator, overheard a conversation between two “Bahamian Adults.” One said to the other, “The problem with the Bahamian Youth is that they are all getting Americanized, and they are using American ‘dialeck’ (dialect). For example, all these kids here think ‘nanny’ is a baby sitter when we all know it as the stuff that comes out of your butt.” Really?! This is the problem? He went on to say, “Why are these kids taking a test on Saturday? They should take it during the week.” Really?! I am sorry, but the Mon-Fri – Fish fry on Sat and church on Sunday is not how the world works. Many businesses are opened 7 days a week and many of those are opened 24hrs a day – yes, sometimes you need to see a patient on Sat or Sun – Yes, you may have to work on a weekend or 6 days a week.

    The problem is with the adults, bad examples, unambitious – stupidity loves company!

    All you here about is a workforce that wants fewer hours – more pay, more benefits. (Customs Workers don’t want to work “airport hours”) Complacency and mediocrity is a a virus in this country.

    And in general, I think Governments like to keep the electorate stupid too…

    I really don’t think there is any hope.

  11. I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education with a minor in Reading. I have been an elementary school teacher for 29 years teaching Kindergarten, First, Second, and Third grade in the United States. I would love to teach in the Bahamas at an elementary school. Younger children love going to school and they love their teachers. If the schools in the Bahamas hire teachers that love children and love teaching, all the other problems will fall into place.

    Children need to look at going to school as a privilege. If they want to go to school they will need to behave and respect the other children who also want to be at school to learn. If each school sets up times to help educate the parents, the teacher/parent connection becomes a partnership. Both the parent and the teacher will want the best for the child. Reading some of the responses above made me very sad. No child is bad and children should not be labelled “bad.” Their behavior may be inappropriate, but they are not a bad person. If a child continues to hear they are “bad,” they will not want to do their best. Children want to do be successful and want to hear positive things.

    At the school I teach at, we concentrate on “Building Character.” We have lessons on character building and focus on a life skill each month. For example: Honesty, Integrity, Trustworthy, Patience, Thoughtful, Understanding, Problem Solving, Responsible, Respectful, Selfless, Sympathetic, Motivated, Enthusiastic, Friendly, Sincerity, Generosity, Hard- working, Inspired, Intelligent, Kind, Encouraging, Appreciative, Caring, Confident, Curious, Dependable, Determined and Empathetic. Never give up on our children. They are the future of tomorrow.

  12. I have looked at the original articles and the responses and I am amazed at some of the responses and their simplicity for such an overwhelming problem which affects, mostly in a negative fashion, all of our lives as citizens of this country. The situation of our educational system is mutifactorial and there is no one solution. Every segment of our population must be involved. The majority of our citizenry must be a part of the solution and not part of the problem by simply complaining and making no effort to donate their time, talent and tithes to programs that already exist.

    Comments such as ‘Let’s give Mr. Christie a second chance’ is nonsence. Our children’s future and that of our country is too important to be giving politicians a “second’ chance because they did nothing the 1st time.

    Education is not a political issue, it is a NATIONAL issue and needs to be handled as such. There are individuals of both sides of the isles in and out of parliament whose talents should be used. Doubling the education budget does nothing to solve the problem if we don’t have a COMPREHENSIVE document as to how we are currently spending the money and how that could be improved. It simply serves to allow more leeway in how the money is appropriated and possibly mis appropriated. We need to take the documents that already exists, use the best possible minds in the country – not PLP or FNM minds, but BAHAMIAN minds, and truly begin to turn this situation around.


  13. Your treatise on the educational system was excellent and timely.

    Too often in these issues of national concern, there are those who attempt to forward the quick fixed solutions – we just have to do 1, 2 and 3, and all will be well.

    We must recognize that these issues are multifactorial, both in their origins, development and outcomes. THERE IS NO QUICK FIX.

    Similarly the solutions must have a multifactorial input, from all the stakeholders and their commitment to sustain the efforts to solve the problem.

    As a successful graduate of the old Government High School, I bemoan our demise. We have to first acknowledge and accept that the termination of the Government’s traditional grammar school was no accident; it was well contrived.

    It is interesting to note that majority rule’s first policy intervention in education was to expand the high school capacity: the first wave of high schools at that time, the Highbury High and Harold Road schools, produced excellent students – they saw Government High as the standard to have and the school to beat. Rather than advance these schools to that level, the Government in its wisdom, sought to undermine the Government High School – they dropped the common entrance exam. I remember my revered teacher Mrs. Anatol Rodgers telling me directly before her untimely death, that one of the major decisions to her resignation from the Government High School was precipitated by the fact that she had Government High School entrants who could not read and write. Unheard of!

    When we had an opportunity to revitalize our educational and give it new birth, The Government, again in its wisdom decided not to join the Caribbean with the CXE examinations and we created the BGCSE – talk about meeting world standards.

    We then introduced the 4.0 evaluation system. All my Mom asked when I got home at the end of the term was what did I come in class. So we removed competition, everyone got thrown in the sea of mediocrity.

    And then we introduced social promotion. People graduating with an attendance certificate, – What does the ability to read or write have to do with graduating? It is also interesting to note that St Andrews has emerged as the leading and most progressive school in the country with its new International Baccalaureate program and Pre-University IB Diploma curriculum. They cream off the brightest in the population at large with their scholarship entrance examinations – just like the old Government High School did.

    We must acknowledge though that during this periods of the late 20th century, we have never had so many teachers, better-equipped schools and equipment. The government has made massive investments on our educational system – and this is both the public and private schools too.

    So where did we go wrong? Ask Mr. Vince Ferguson, our veteran educator (God bless his soul) placed the blame primarily at the feet of the government and its centralized polices that dictated the governance in the public education system. Martin Luther King cried out: let freedom reign. Imagine a public school with a Board that was challenged to present a strategic plan and on approval by the Ministry was given a line item budget to pursue its goals and objectives???

    Then there are the social factors – the crime, violence, gangs and drugs – in our schools and neighborhoods. If we have the means, we drive our kids to and from school. The thought’s of them walking is too frightening to conceive or perceive.

    Less not forget the issue of sexuality in our youth, our high teenage pregnancy rates. Maybe one day, not in my lifetime, we will have a population development program. Did you know that in 1994 the Government had the opportunity (and grant provided by the WHO) to produce and present a national population and development policy? Talk about planning. Imagine for a moment that over the past 20 years – the amount of schools we built and still don’t have enough? How many more do we need?

    And now the government is going to put policemen in our schools as a solution. Vince Ferguson was correct – no one asked us the Bahamian people if we felt this was the right thing to do or what were the alternatives. Imagine that a 10 year old is brought up in an environment where she/he is reminded everyday that discipline is solely or primarily a police phenomenon. Now mix this with what they see or hear everyday of police corruption and brutality. Please don’t get me wrong, I love and support my police force, their courage and dedication – but I believe that parents, community leaders and volunteers would be better role models in schools where discipline issues were major factors. We ask for neighborhoods to organize crime watches and request for more police patrols, not to post policemen outside each house or on every corner. Why not engage the PTA Associations to have similar school committees to be actively involved in the day school patrol affairs. And if we can’t get the PTAs, then we must start here first, because this is where the problem is rooted.

    At the end of the day – its more police, is it that we are asking for, a police state? How many policemen are enough to combat crime in this country? We are asking now for the police to raise our children too. Now we won’t have to be responsible for any thing!

    We have issues of the TV watching, the music, the programs – they are all contributing factors. Where we have unruly children, should we ask to have policemen posted in some homes?

    I guess we lump this all under parenting. We forget that these “bad children” are ours. We raised them. Maybe we should all be locked up. We have emphasized materialism as a surrogate for parenting: our children have TV, computers and video games in their rooms. They are exposed to summer cruises and mid term vacations and the latest fashions. We are all aware too that the Haitian children with so much less are the ones performing best in the schools. Now I wonder why this is so? – their parents are mostly laborers with no formal education. They function and excel in these same schools where our children can’t.

    School performance is the least of their concern. We, the parents, created this environment of permissiveness.

    There are health factors too. Remember in the 1980s with the epidemic of crack cocaine when Dr. David Allen reminded us of the crack cocaine babies and the next generation of children with developmental problems – have the chickens come home to roost?

    And then finally there is a issue of having an educational system to meet our national and community needs. But please don’t tell me we need vocational guidance – we need career development. While I applaud the BTVI agenda, I was more interested to be informed how the Jamaican Technical Institute has become the University of Technology of Jamaica, and we can’t even get our College of the Bahamas transformation to a university.

    In summary, while I could expand on any of the above points as the only factor – they all are contributing. We have to direct solutions to each of them.

    Now where do we go? – I agree with the blog; we have enough solutions. Pull those studies, recommendations and reports off the shelf. Dust them off and start reading.

    What we need are leaders. Parental leaders. PTA leaders. Community leaders. School leaders. We need to motivate and inform every parent to appreciate their role as leaders and their value at every level in the system. Our inherited patriarchal system of education encourages parents to give up their responsibilities, obligations and duties in our civil society. A major component of our education initiatives must be to target the parents – as adult learners. This requires different skills and learning processes.

    Unfortunately our politicians are the main culprits in perpetuating the addiction that the Government will provide – education, housing, health etc. We want government housing – and they will pay the mortgage too; free health care; free education. At school opening – its despicable to see the politicians providing the free everything for school – bags, pencils, clothes. They request nothing in return (only a vote). Just like the elections – we have married our values to our addiction – what’s is in it for me.

    So maybe Vince Ferguson was right: Ponder these words from a blogger on comments from one of his interviews on Steve McKinney show some years ago:

    The government of the Bahamas is afraid to test and trust the intellect of the nations citizens in the key decision making processes and budgetary matters. This he said is very evident in the Educational system where the government does not allow any public school or community to make up or control his or her own budget. Instead like our colonial masters they continue to pass down their annual budgetary constraints upon local communities and schools. This Mr. Ferguson said must be discontinued if the Educational system is to secure any responsible feel of itself in order to responsibly control it needs and constraints.

    How many reports do we need to read???

    We have a new Government, new Minster and new promises… of more money. Almost forty years later and I still wait with bated breath.

  14. Thank you for inviting comment on the current education system.

    I refer you to The Nassau Institute website – for numerous articles on the failing public education system.

    Also – Comments by a former Minister of Education and the current Prime Minister (May 2010) confirm the problem – in their own words.

    More words on this subject change nothing. Until education is viewed as a for-profit enterprise and those who want to teach offer their services in a market for education, the cost to taxpayers increases for an unsatisfactory outcome.

    Below is an excerpt from an exchange with a few civic minded Bahamians in December 2010:

    With due respect for all, exploring alternatives to government supplied education should be on the agenda. As Robert makes clear there will not be enough money to change and/or introduce new systems in the foreseeable future. Even if there were a windfall of cash for government education what are the assurances that it would be used more productively than in the past?

    Presently education is viewed as a “right” to be supplied by the state. Viewing education as an entrepreneurial enterprise opens the mind to considering alternatives to government supplied education. For many this may be a “bridge too far.”

    The research of Dr. James Tooley shows that the poorest of the poor in Africa and India opt for “private” educators over ‘free” public schools -thus confirming Dr. Milton Friedman’s support of market solutions for providing quality education to poor children.

    I believe a number of “private” schools teaching the early grades already exist in The Bahamas. Information about these small enterprises would reveal what Bahamian parents are seeking, and how much they are willing/able to pay.

    I am aware this a “radical” idea for some but as has been said – repeating the same mistakes over and over and expecting a different outcome is a form of insanity.

    There are alternatives to the current failing system. Dr. James Tooley’s “The Beautiful Tree”, and “Weapons of Mass Instruction” by John Taylor Gatto make great background reading for considering alternatives.

    Although we have no data on the number of private schools currently in operation – or how many families are home schooling. My guess is caring parents are seeking alternatives – and they will find them – eventually.

    Joan Thompson

  15. To change our culture, which is the root of the problem, we have to lead the kids through the logic of determining what changes need to be made. They have to fix it by adopting a strong sense of personal responsibility for the state of society. In essence, we have to teach them a little sociology.

    There is a way to make them receptive and enthusiastic to this concept.

    You need a young, gifted professor(s) who can come across like a peer leader. He stands up in front of the group, especially the worst of the worst and asks them a series of questions, engaging them in a “rap” session:

    What makes you really mad about the way life is in the Bahamas? Write down all their answers on the board.

    Address each concern asking them to come up with what they think caused that problem to exist: i.e. what did the older generations do in their lives that contributed to the existence of this problem?

    Then ask: if you had the power to fix this problem by making rules, what rules would you make?

    Since you can’t make rules for everybody in real life, the only way to make things better is for each and every one of us to follow those rules in his own life. Only the young people have the power to fix our society, by breaking with the mindsets of their parents.

    1. Good idea. I hope someone with the resources or authority to implement such a plan reads this. Thank you for your comments.

  16. I agree that the education system is in a state. There are a number of factor which contribute to this:

    1. A large number of parents are more concern with material things in life and place little to no emphasis on education.They are more concerned that a blackberry was take, than picking up their child’s report card.

    2. So many parents think they are their children’s friends,so if they have no respect for their parents , how in the world do you expect them to have respect for their teachers of anyone in authority.

    3. The powers that be in education, forget that they were once teachers,( with power comes great responsibility), so now all the issues are with the line staff the teachers.

    4. The powers that be may come across a programme or technique, that worked somewhere in the world and rush to implement it in The Bahamas, not checking to see if it can be adapted to this country, to these children.

    5. OVERCROWDING is a MAJOR problem.

    6. Environment influences have people behave and think. If you have to work in filth and learn where you are a visitor and the rats are at home, the classrooms have mold growing in the ceiling and you can see the sky through the roof, how would you behave.

  17. The education system is indeed in great need of reform not only in the public school system but private schools too! I remember quite vividly sitting at the dining room table for hours on end with countless encyclopedias looking for information on Christopher Columbus for my History coursework. Now, in no way do I mean to depreciate the importance of the Renaissance period in world history but for the purpose of the Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary Education History coursework I would have much rathered assignments on legends of The Bahamas who built my people up instead of tearing them down. People of such grand significance that my generation still CLEARLY knows nothing about and thus have no care when they die. Our social fabric is indeed affected by this.

    1. I agree but I hope you are not talking about criminals like Lynden Pindling, who pretended to build our people up, while destroying the nation, while making himself a boatload of money.

      1. Dear Ben, Your comment is a prime example of why young Bahamians need to be taught about their own history and those who came before them. If you had had the opportunity to read, investigate and learn the true contributions of such nation builders as Sir Lynden, I feel certain that you would not have made such an irresponsible and biased comment. I know that you are entitled to your opinion, but this is not an editorial page. When speaking in such a forum, we all benefit when we research our information BEFORE we form our opinions. Your statement was based solely on gossip and lies which have been passed down from one uninformed individual to another. When will we learn to give even the Devil his do. Only the most uniformed and uneducated of us could ever make such a statement, and truly mean it. It is time to stop our Third World thinking and open our minds and our hearts to what is true, not what is commonly and freely passed on by the uninformed. Just my five cent.

        1. Your comment shows extreme ignorance of the facts. It is not an “opinion” that Lynden Pindling was a crook, it has been proven by documentation and eye witness accounts. Only because Paul Adderley was a mouse in Lynden’s pocket, and the Commission of Inquiry didn’t want to taint the reputation of The Bahamas further, was the former PM was not prosecuted. If real history were taught to young Bahamians it would show Pindling to be a corrupt, victimising, exploitive, greedy little man whose only real goal was to enrich himself. He was a Haitian and lied to people about his nationality. People say Pindling strated out good. That is nonsense. Any good that was done under his administration was done by other poeple, who he used to steal ideas and look good in the eyes of the people. Ed Moxey is an example of that. Pindling pulled the great snowjob on Bahamians and we are still paying for the corruption and perversion of our society that his reign fostered.

        2. Actually, Gloria, this is a Blog and, even more so than an editorial page, opinions are welcomed and encouraged. That is all that is here… opinions. Thanks for your comment.

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