Reasons for the low levels of educational achievement in the Bahamas
How do parents expect for their children to perform well in school if they do not make an overt effort to be involved in their child’s education? A deficiency in parental guidance and concern are reflected in low results on the BGCSEs. Although it is offered that parents have contributed to the failure of the educational system and are held responsible for these low BGCSE grades, in the eyes of many Bahamians, the Government is mainly to blame.
Why is it that under both political parties, The Free National Movement (FNM) and The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP), that the overall grade average has not improved by much, questions Cassius Stuart, The Bahamas Democratic Movement leader. According to Stuart they both have failed in this critical area of our society which should be of much concern (Brennen, 2005). He made mention that too many of our graduates are leaving school unqualified. Due to our lack of natural resources, Mr.
Stuart explained, we must show even more concern for the education of our people (Brennen, 2005). In this regard, the Government is held responsible for the failure in the BGCSEs because of their inconsideration for escalation of the educational system. Neil Sealey, who has, according to The Tribune, spent twenty-five years in higher education serving as a professional examiner for GCE O and A levels, as well as the BGSCE Exams, would rather take a look at the conditions under which teachers are expected to make wonders happen.
He believes that teachers must be given more encouraging wages in order to increase the quantity of qualified teachers. There must also be an improvement in the basic amenities of the schools including the facilities and security. His question is that as “a country with acute labour shortages in almost every professional field”, why should one want to enter a career path knowing that they will be overworked, “underpaid, and underappreciated” (Sealey, 2006, p. A6).
If the Government would see to it that teachers are paid higher wages, the argument goes, then more qualified persons would be encouraged to enter the public sector resulting in better teaching methods and higher BGCSE grades. With qualified teachers with access to the proper tools and a safe environment to teach in, teachers would be able to execute their jobs more effectively. From the students’ point of view, the government must see to it that students are equipped with the necessary resources to enhance their learning capabilities.
According to Neal Sealey, if the standards of government schools were more advanced, then the private schools would be forced to advance as well. Sealey suggests that classrooms must be equipped with special facilities conducive for studying and learning. “We need language labs with technicians, modern equipment, and the software and annually renewed texts and materials that go with them” (2006, p. A6). Sealey also insisted that the libraries be comprised of all the significant books, media and computers with internet access (2006).
It is highly likely that students who have such resources will perform better in school and this would be shown by a progression in the BGCSE results. Although many Bahamians blame parents and teachers for the low BGCSE results, others seem to believe that it is the teachers that must be criticized as well. In his article, although Andrew Allen acknowledges the works of good teachers, he believes that there must be an improvement in the Bahamas’ labor force claiming that poor attitudes and appalling teaching practices are unfit for exposure to our developing workforce (2005).
Allen reveals that too many teacher use their teaching time to persuade students of their religious beliefs or convince students of their social ideas. Some teachers even refuse to make mention of certain topics that would imply reasoning that challenges their own beliefs (Allen, 2005). For example, Allen (2005) spoke of an incident that he was familiar with where a public school teacher “objected to any reference to evolution in science classes” (para. 11).
According to Allen (2005), what was even more disturbing was a Tribune report of students at a particular school in New Providence who were punished for what the teacher considered to be “lesbian footwear” (para. 12). Allen questions whether children “exposed to such mindsets” should be expected to develop into competitive countrymen. Rather, Allen (2005) concluded that “the quality of individuals attracted to the teaching profession in The Bahamas must improve if any kind of leap forward in education is to happen” (para.15).
In realizing the importance of education Bahamians show an overall interest in the annual performance of students on the BGCSE examinations results. Because of the poor National Average for the country, identifying the causes of these grades is of much concern. It seems as though many Bahamians believe that it is the parents of the students taking the examinations and the defects in the educational systems which account for the low National BGCSE overall mean grade.
Specifically, a finger has been pointed at single parent family homes and parents who show a lack of interest in their child’s education. Persons have blamed the Government who must improve the standards of the schools in The Bahamas and the conditions under which teachers must work. And lastly, the quality of teachers themselves are causes of concern because of unacceptable teaching practices and closed mindsets towards what children should and should not be taught.
Until all the issues are addressed surrounding the environment our students are brought up in, parental guidance and the educational system, there is little hope that the National BGCSE mean grade will progress.
References Allen, A. (2005, November 11). The Bahamas must improve its workforce. Retrieved February 4, 2008, from http://www. bahamapundit. com Brennen, C. (2005, December 12). PLP and FNM ‘failed children’: BDM leader hits out over education. The Tribune, 102 p. A3. Hartnell, N. (2005, December 10). Education’s failure: Students score an average F+ in BGCSE exams.
Tribune, 102, p. A5. Johnson, P. (1988). Effective secondary schooling: Factors affecting academic achievement in the commonwealth of the Bahamas. Unpublished Ph. D dissertation, University of Toronto, Canada. Kelly, N. (2006, August 21). Between the lines: Who is really to blame for unacceptable D+ results? The Punch, p. 16. Sealey, N. (2006, August 23). D+ and holding? Why changing the schools will change the grades. Tribune, p. A6. Turner, R. (1968). A study of education in the Bahamas. Unpublished masters dissertation, Colorado State University, Colorado.