Op-Ed on School Reform – Keeping the End in View
March 15, 2021
For decades Bermudians have been lamenting over the education system in this country. Every single aspect of education from the Minister, Ministry, Department of Education, teachers, curriculum, resources and school buildings have taken shots.
The last significant change in education took place almost 30 years ago, and it was executed poorly. There was no real transition plan, and teachers were unsure of how the middle school system fit in the overall education scheme. This government will not make the mistakes of the past. We will be methodical; we will measure as many times as we need to before we cut, test and prototype projects and use a phased approach to implementing change, so there is as little disruption to our students as possible.
Every political party has tried changing aspects of the system in hopes of positive change, with varied results. A different approach was required, and a different approach is what we are currently getting.
This government is serious about providing students with a world-class education system that meets children where they are. We want a school system that performs well for all of our children.
It was asked if the crisis in education justified the scale of changes envisioned by the Ministry of Education? If sweeping reform was truly needed? If the reforms presented were the right reforms? The answer to these questions is an unequivocal, yes. I can say that because these questions were already asked of the people of Bermuda, and they provided their answers through Plan 2022. Instead of only focusing on what is thought to be wrong with our education system, this government is listening to their people and their desires for their education system because we want to improve it.
Plan 2022 is the voice of Bermudians and what they want to see from Public School education. It is what leads and guides our processes. If Plan 2022 is not mentioned as to why this government is making its decisions, then that source is uninformed. Bermuda's people asked for Education Reform, and improved school facilities are but one of many facets of this reform.
What improved facilities do is give teachers the chance to provide 21st-Century Learning. That is more inquiry-based Learning, STEAM learning. Learning that I will also add, our teachers will be provided with the training to provide. Improved facilities give students the opportunities not only to learn but to create and innovate.
While comparing public schools to private schools is often like comparing apples to mangoes, I have to point to the BHS Innovation Centre. This centre, designed for 21st-Century Learning, consists of science laboratories, computer science and robotics labs, creation and innovation areas, a learning commons and library, and a digital media studio. These are some of the same things that this government wishes to provide our students and described in the public consultation meetings.
Do our public school students not deserve the same kind of spaces to allow them to compete? Are our public school students not worth the investment?
Detractors would have people believe that education reform for this government is just about school buildings. I say they are missing the point. To focus on the buildings alone is to ignore what has been said over and over in the many consultation meetings that have taken place over the last several weeks:
If we do not provide our students with facilities that can support 21st Century Learning, they will be left behind, and our country will be left behind.
Just because people say the government is only focused on buildings doesn't make it true and to insist that is the only focus is to choose to remain purposely ignorant of the facts. Through the Learning First Program, this government is also revamping the way teachers teach and what students will learn. This is happening right now, and more can be known about it at https://www.learningfirstbda.com/.
Our teachers cannot provide 21st Century Learning in a 1950's school building. The school buildings as they currently are cannot support 21st Century Learning, they cannot prepare our children for the future, and last I checked, that was one of the primary purposes of a school.
It comes down to this; the schools that are being proposed to become Parish Primary Schools were chosen because they are best able to be developed into what our students need to be educated for the future. Period.
It was said the critical question of this government should be on the causes of the dropping of standards in our antiquated education system. I disagree; the critical question is this: What kind of system can we give to our students to ensure success in the future?
Public Relations Officer
Progressive Labour Party