BAHAMIAN PROGRESS IN EDUCATION

Errol Miller

In1993 the Bahamian Government set up a National Task Force, chaired by Dr. Keva Bethel, to study all major issues related to education and to make appropriate recommendations. In carrying out its mandate the National Task Force not only analyzed documentary evidence but also conducted a nation-wide survey of the views of the various stakeholders and actors on their perceptions of the needs and goals of education for the next century. The National Task Force made its recommendations to Government in January 1994. The Ministry of Education drew heavily on the recommendations of the National Task Force in formulating its Five-Year Plan in 1994.

Like most well balanced educational plans, the Bahamian five-year plan took the position that it was not prudent to develop any one level of education to the exclusion of the other levels. Modest and achievable goals needed to be set for each level in an integrated and interrelated manner. Accordingly, interrelated goals were set for pre-school, primary, secondary and tertiary education.

In visiting the Bahamas recently I took the time to see what has happened over the last five years in light of the recommendations of the National Task Force and the of Five-Year Education Plan. I came away being very impressed with the progress made.

To begin with, many schools have been refurbished and new ones have been built. The new schools, and some of the refurbished ones could stand up to the best anywhere in the world. I was particularly impressed with the new pre-schools and primary schools. They have been built with very good accommodation for the administration of the schools and the classrooms are superb. For example, the Willard Patton Pre-school is located in a refurbished primary school building. It has been built as the standard and model for all future pre-schools. The classrooms to accommodate 16 to 18 children are very large and have all the various areas and centres of interest that teachers desire, including their own bathrooms.

In the past, it was possible to distinguish between classrooms in which student teachers were placed for teaching practice because those classrooms had an abundance of teaching aids and class materials. Almost all classrooms in the primary schools now resemble student teachers’ classrooms. More importantly, there were definite signs that the improvements in the physical plant and teaching materials were being matched by improvements in educational attainment. Most of the children in Grade two, in the classes that I sat in and observed teaching, were at least beginning to read while several were reading quite fluently.

While there were similar improvements in the physical plant at the secondary level my observations did not lead me to believe that there were corresponding improvements in the quality of learning and achievement at the secondary level as is the case with the pre-school and primary levels. However, because two weeks is a short time and I did not visit as many secondary schools as primary schools, my observations may not hold true for the entire school system.

One of the goals set by the plan is that by the year 2000 all teachers entering the profession will be required to have at least a bachelor degree, including professional training as a teacher. Accordingly, the College of the Bahamas has upgraded its teacher-training programme to offer the Bachelor of Education. The first set of teachers in this new programme is due to graduate in June of this year. Further, the College of the Bahamas has been upgraded to a four-year degree granting institution. During my visits, 170 new computers were being distributed to the staff of the college, each of whom would have one on his/her desk.

The Ministry of Education and the Bahamas Union of Teachers have agreed to introduce the grades of senior teacher and master teacher into the teaching service. The process in on the way to appoint both senior and master teachers although none has so far been appointed.

There can be no question that the recommendations of the National Task Force and the Five-Year Education Plan 1994-99 are being implemented. There is also little doubt that the Government is making a substantial capital investment in lifting the level of education. Further, signs of the desired improvements are already visible. Education in the Bahamas is on the move to face the challenges of the next century.

 

April 5, 1999

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