Thursday, June 9, 2011

The national D average in the Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE) exams masks the tremendous lack of achievement in the Bahamian public school system

Education, failed culture and inspiration

thenassauguardian editorial

Nassau, Bahamas

It was important that Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham took time to greet 12-year-old Anna Albury outside of the House of Assembly on Monday. The girl, who is blind, was recently crowned Primary School Student of the Year over 115 candidates from around the country.

“I am like just any other child. I do not look at myself as having a disability. I just happen to be blind,” said the sixth grader from Hope Town School on receiving the award.

Fully blind from birth, Anna could have been placed in the School for the Blind, but her parents Theresa and Lambert Albury insisted that she be raised normally with other children. They wanted her to do well.

With their encouragement and the support of her teachers and classmates, Anna has maintained an outstanding 3.8 cumulative grade point average.

Here in New Providence in our public school system many children with two working eyes, two working ears, two working legs and two working arms are not doing nearly as well as Anna. And they benefit from a free education through grade 12.

The national D average in the Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE) exams masks the tremendous lack of achievement in our public school system. If the private schools are taken out of that calculation, our public school system would be in the F average range. No nation can be great with that level of underachievement.

Many blame the government of the day and the education bureaucracy for not doing more to reform the public education system. Certainly, there is more that can be done on the policy and funding sides of the equation to reform our system. However, a major part of the education problem in this country is our culture. Governments and civil servants cannot make Bahamian parents and guardians care about education.

Too many parents do not demand enough from their children. Too many Bahamians simply do not value the free education that is offered.

Concerned parents, relatives and guardians are crucial catalysts to success when it comes to educational achievement. When families care about education and hold children to standards, those children do better. When families only care about proms and making sure children are dressed in the trendiest clothes at the beginning of the school year, those children do not do as well.

Our culture has assumed too much of the foolish commercial nonsense from the two cultural centers we are between – the United States and Jamaica. Knowledge of the latest rap or dancehall song is high, while the literacy and numeracy levels are low in The Bahamas.

We must do better.

Education is not merely about being prepared for the job market. It is about being a reasoned human being able to understand and function independently in the community you live in. It is also about being able to participate in the development and governance of that society in many different ways.

Too many Bahamians are too comfortable being uneducated. Too many Bahamians are too comfortable raising uneducated children. This must change.

What is especially problematic about this situation is that the free education system through grade 12 was something that was fought for.

The first black government of The Bahamas in 1967 had as its mandate ensuring that all Bahamians had access to education. In the ensuing decades schools were built across the country. Now, 44 years later, many of the parents and children who are the heirs to that movement show little interest in knowledge, learning and achievement.

Ignorant people are always ruled by smarter people. A people cannot be independent if they are dumb.

Bahamians must stop making excuses when it comes to learning and achievement. Yes, education reform is needed. But what is equally needed is concern about learning and knowledge by our people. A father who is not smart should, and can, have as a goal ensuring that his children do better than he did.

He can ensure that his children behave in school and do the work assigned; he can participate in the school’s Parent Teacher Association; he can seek tutoring for his children to ensure they have the technical assistance he cannot provide.

Anna Albury, a blind girl from a small school in the Family Islands, is doing well. She is inspirational. Born with a disadvantage, she still excels.

Mothers, fathers, relatives and guardians across The Bahamas must do more to ensure that their well-bodied children do better and take advantage of the opportunities given to them. We must care more about education and learning to ensure that we, Bahamians, have the capacity to govern ourselves and to command every sector of our economy.

Jun 08, 2011

thenassauguardian editorial