CARL W. BETHEL, M.P.
MINISTER OF EDUCATION, YOUTH, SPORTS AND CULTURE
2008/2009 BUDGET CONTRIBUTION
Mr. Speaker, I should commence my contribution by congratulating the newly elected President of the Bahamas Union of Teachers, Ms. Belinda Wilson, and her Executive team upon their election to office last night. I and my officials look forward to working with the new leadership of the Union in a constructive manner as we seek to continue our partnership with that Union in addressing all matters of mutual concern in a responsible manner that is conducive to industrial harmony, mutual respect and the attainment of results which are consistent with the goals of educators. I would also wish to thank the out-going President of the Union, Mrs. Ida Poitier-Turnquest and her Executive team for the excellent service they have rendered to the Teaching profession over the past 3 years and, in particular, the great success they enjoyed when they successfully negotiated a historic and most beneficial Industrial Agreement in 2006; which Agreement has formed the basis for many of the improved terms of service presently being extended to teachers throughout The Bahamas. Further, Mrs. Poitier-Turnquest and her Executive are to be commended for the pressure exerted over the past year to ensure that progress was made in settling the more than 1,200 unresolved claims of teachers for promotions, re-classifications and re-assessment money that was owed to them. Last year we spent $400,000.00 more than the allocation under this item in the Budget to satisfy the just but unresolved claims of teachers, for a total of more than $1.9 million.
I am pleased to announce that as a results of the special efforts of the team from our Human Resource Section that I put on special duty to work with the Department of Public Service over the past several months, we have just today received written confirmation of Financial Clearance to pay the further amount of $1,507,499.00 to teachers who are owed money for their reclassification and re-assessment; and the majority of this money is to pay more up-to-date obligations owed to teachers. Teachers who have been successfully processed will receive their entitlement in their pay at the end of this month.
The Ministry of Education, Youth, Sports and Culture believes that education is an indispensable “passport to life” that will enable people to realize their potential. Further, the Ministry recognizes that education is a basic human right and an essential tool for achieving the goals of equality, development and peace. The importance of education as the essential means to prepare the Bahamian people to play meaningful roles in our Nation’s life has gained new emphasis as we contemplate the severe economic challenges now presented to the Bahamian economy by the conditions afflicting the U.S and the world economy. Indeed, the task of equipping Bahamians with the skills to compete in an increasingly globalized world economy is of paramount importance.
The Opposition seeks to attribute the economic conditions affecting The Bahamas to the so-called cancellation of a few comparatively minor contracts, such as the second Junior High School in Freeport and the cancellation of the Straw Market contract. These are “peanuts” in the scheme of things. Yes the government did not proceed with a few minor contracts, but many others were commenced, proceeded with and completed last year – contracts which the former government had not even contemplated. So, while the Heritage Junior High School was not built in Freeport last year, the new Junior High School near St. George’s High School in Freeport was built, at a cost of more than $4,365,000.00.
The $23 million Straw Market (which was to be spent over a 2 year period of construction, at least) was not continued, but more than $25,993,770.72 million was spent this year alone (!) on the Summer School Repair Programme, on-going School repairs and improvements, on-going Capital development, the building of new School classrooms and an administration building at S.C. McPherson Junior High, and the new schools, being the South-west New Providence High School and the T.G. Glover Primary School, throughout the past Budget year.
Although spending priorities may change the same amounts of money, broadly are speaking, are being spent every year, if not on this project, then on that project. It all depends upon the priorities of the government of the day.
None of these minor disputes or shifts in emphasis between one government explains the present economic situation affecting The Bahamas.
Indeed, today as a part of the global economy we face a “perfect economic storm”. The price of oil has reached an all-time high based upon 2 factors: 1. the need to keep U.S. interest rates low, so that Americans can pay their home mortgage payments and avoid an even greater flood of foreclosures and home losses, as the U.S sub-prime mortgage fallout spreads into the mainstream economy because of the collapse in the price of homes, which has erased the homeowners’ equity base, which enabled banks to lend to homeowners. 2. the consequential lowering in value of the U.S. dollar, which has in part led to the sky-rocketing price of Oil, now at nearly $140.00 per barrel. With low interest rates speculators sell ‘weak’ currencies such as the dollar and buy stronger currencies, with higher interest rates and better returns, such as the Euro. Not only speculators but sovereign investments of stronger economies take refuge in buying stronger currencies.
The high price of Oil is forcing airlines into imposing new and extraordinary fees on consumers, cut-backs of staff and cutting back on routes, as they seek to grapple with the losses they are suffering due to inflation in the price of Oil. The same situation affects every other means of transport, whether shipping, trucking or ordinary motoring.
The bulk cost of staple foods such as rice and corn have doubled over the past several years and are set for further rises as some exporting nations seek to limit or even prohibit exports. In the U.S. the price of bread has risen by 17%, the price of cheese by 15% and the price of milk has risen by 12% over the past year alone. Added to this, more and more arable land is being devoted to the production of crops used to create Ethanol as a substitute for Oil, rather than food production. Add to this the ever increasing demands of China and India for every spare drop of Oil and it is clear that high Oil prices may well be here to stay.
The early 19th Century English Economist, Thomas Robert Malthus, predicted that population growth would eventually outstrip the capacity of the planet to produce enough food, leading to famine, plague, war and death. For most of the last Century economists would dismiss Maltusian economics pointing to advances in technology, the use of fertilizers, the development of pesticides, and new growing methods (such as crop rotation) and showing how these actually increased the rate of growth of agricultural production over that time. However, in the question of the price of Oil it seems that Mr. Malthus is finally being proven right, as the insatiable global demand for Oil is outstripping the capacity of the industry and, indeed the planet itself, to meet the demand, hence the ever escalating price and all the adverse consequences which are flowing from it.
The government has done all in its power in a display of the utmost humanity and concern for the poor to ameliorate and to lessen the inevitable impact of unavoidable oil price increases and consequential inflation upon poor and middle-class Bahamians. The government has eliminated all import duties or taxes upon staple fruits, vegetables, cereals and bread. A 2 year gas tax holiday has been granted to BEC. This will lead to a lowering of the price of the fuel which generates our electricity by 17%! Hopefully this tax holiday will slow the rate of increase in electricity bills, if not actually lowering the bill. In doing this the government is doing what is right!
The Minister of State for Public Utilities, Phenton Neymour, has indicated that the government through BEC is seeking input from the public on alternative energy proposals. Here’s mine, as a member of the public. We need to harness the power of Nature, particularly those Trade Winds which blow so powerfully and so consistently over the most easterly islands such as Eleuthera, Cat Island and Long Island which lie on the eastern rim or boundary of the Great Bahama Bank and the North Atlantic Ocean. We need to construct “wind farms” using the latest designs of wind turbines or generators, which farms could, at least provide sufficient electricity to power those local communities, and even supply excess electricity to the national power grid, run by BEC. It is for this and other reasons that the government has shown visionary leadership by reducing or eliminating customs duty or tariffs on the importation of power-saving household devices, solar generating equipment and wind turbines.
The next several years could well be very difficult. The G8 Ministers in their meeting this week have warned of a global recession if the price of oil does not go down. The IMF has already reduced its expectations for economic growth not only for The Bahamas, but for virtually the whole world.
These circumstances place an even greater burden upon our system of education to do everything possible to equip Bahamians to survive as not only The Bahamas, but the world economy, goes through necessary re-adjustments to new economic realities.
EDUCATION’S BUDGETARY ALLOCATION
The FNM government shares this vision for educational and national development. As the Rt. Hon. Prime Minister and Minister of Finance said, once again Education has received the lion’s share of the Budget, 20% of all spending this year.
The Recurrent Budget of the Department of Education has been increased by $10,965,999 to $206,087,979.00.
The Recurrent Budget of BTVI has been increased to $6,115,976.00, an increase of more than $92,000.00.
The Recurrent Budget of the Ministry of Education has been set at $44,878,797.00.
The Recurrent Budget of the College of The Bahamas has been increased by $614,160 to $27,365,690.00.
The Capital Budget of the Ministry of Education is set at $31,390,999.00, an increase of more than $5,000,000.00, and the government’s capital development for the College of The Bahamas has been increased by $1,000,000.00 to $2,000,000.00.
In total the government allocation purely to Education both in terms of recurrent and capital expenditure, as detailed above, totals $316,839,441.00.
PROPOSED CAPITAL WORKS
In the 2008/2009 fiscal period, considerable sums will be utilized to complete the construction of:
the Comprehensive High School in South West, New Providence;
The T. G. Glover Primary School;
The new classroom block at C.H. Reeves;
Restorative works at the Bartlett Hill and Lewis Yard Primary Schools in West Grand Bahama;
and the new St. George’ Junior High School in Grand Bahama.
Funds will also be spent on new construction works:
to begin the construction of a new George Town Primary School,
a new Salina Point Primary School,
a new technical block at C.I. Gibson Senior High School,
a new technical block at Central Abaco High School,
a new four (4) classroom block at the Harbour Island Primary School, inclusive of a pre-school facility,
a new classroom and administrative structure for the A.F. Adderley Junior High School, to restore that school to its former glory and remove the trailer park created by the former government,
Additionally, works to re-build and restore the gymnasium at R.M. Bailey Senior High School (which was severely damaged by a fire several years ago) will commence this year.
I wish also to advise that the swathe of land between Oakes Field Primary School and C.C. Sweeting Junior High School has been determined to have been allocated for the use of the Department of Education, and that over the course of this year a sports facility for Oakes Field Primary, and a larger sports facility for the use of both C.C. Sweeting Junior and Senior high School will be constructed for the use of those students who, presently, have no convenient access to modern sports facilities.
Specifically, in the 2008/2009 Budget, the sum of $10,780,000.00 has been allocated for the building of new primary and secondary schools – an increase of $4,780,000.00 over last year. Additionally, the sum of $5,329,139.00 has been allocated for repairs to Family Island and New Providence Schools, an increase of $329,139.00 over the past year. Further, the sum of $4,765,638.00 has been allocated for the expansion and refurbishment of schools in the Family Islands and New Providence, and increase of $765,638.00 over the past year. In total the capital Budget of the Ministry of Education has been increased by $5,055,999.00 this year.
NEW SCHOOL BOARD INITIATIVE
There is a joke that Americans sometimes tell: “I’m not a member of any organized political entity, I’m a member of the Democratic Party”. The same can be said for the Free National Movement. We are a movement, rather than a thoroughly disciplined political organization. We are a collection of diverse philosophies, characters and aspirations united, however, by common principles. To understand the FNM we have to look to the core principles that unify us. One such core and fundamental principle is our commitment to decentralization, to empowering local government and to empowering people to have a greater say in their own welfare. In keeping with this overriding principle, this year my Ministry has launched a new initiative to further empower local communities, and local government to have a greater say in deciding exactly what repairs will be made to schools in their Districts over the summer holiday repair period.
This week we have transferred a total of $1,000,000.00 to 13 Islands or School Districts in Grand Bahama and the Family Islands.
Pursuant to this new initiative the following extraordinary allocations have been made, as follows to the Districts or Islands mentioned:
1. Abaco $125,000.00
2. South Andros $50,000.00
3. North Andros $50,000.00
4. Cat Island $75,000.00
5. San Salvador $25,000.00
6. Eleuthera $100,000.00
7. Exuma $100,000.00
8. Grand Bahama (Primary) $125,000.00
9. Gd. Bahama (Secondary) $125,000.00
10. Inagua $50,000.00
11. Long Island $100,000.00
12. Mayaguana $25,000.00
13. Acklins/C.I./L.C. $50,000.00
District Superintendents of the Ministry of Education are to cooperate with Local Government District Administrators, Principals, and District or Town councils to decide how to prioritize the money to issue minor local contracts for school repairs under the supervision of project officers from the Ministry of Public Works, and with proper accounting.
It is hoped that through this initiative more local communities will have a greater say, input and participation in the decision-making process as to which repairs are most needed for the schools in their local communities.
Again we see that the FNM is seeking to put money where its mouth is to further empower local communities, and to make local government more relevant and effective in meeting the expectations of the local communities they serve.
In terms of the summer repair programme, great efforts will be made to limit school repair contracts to not more than $50,000.00 per school in New Providence and Grand Bahama, and thereby to reserve larger contracts for essential roof repairs, plumbing works in some of the older school structures, and essential electrical re-wiring at schools such as Ridgeland Primary.
MANAGEMENT INFORMATION SYSTEMS AND THE BEST COMPUTERIZATION PROJECT
The reliance on technology for advancing every facet of society has prompted education systems the world over to rethink their approach to the teaching and learning environment.
The BEST computerization project, which was implemented since 2001, is designed to emplace computers in every upper Primary classroom throughout The Bahamas, this was to allow students to benefit from the added assistance of techno-delivered reinforcement and enrichment activities that complement their regular lessons and at the same time allow students to access resource materials outside of the classrooms or the school itself via the internet. To date some 35 schools have been computerized.
The Ministry, having recently completed a full assessment of all classrooms through the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, is now able to both cost and scope the remainder of the works that are to be completed at the 85 remaining schools where connectivity is still to be installed. These enhancement works are estimated to cost five million dollars ($5M) and the procurement of relevant hardware and software to support the requisite programmes is projected to cost $2.5M. The training and retooling of classroom and specialist teachers to operate in the new technology driven teaching and learning environment is also a priority of the Ministry. This will be introduced in a phased process across the country with system trainers being allowed to participate in overseas workshops and symposia as needed.
Added to the upgrades planned for the nation’s public school classrooms at the primary level is the need to extend computerization to the High School level and to this end my ministry will be implementing activities proposed under the Support Programme for Transforming Education and Training (SPTET) project to facilitate this aspect.
Further, there is the need to ensure that the Ministry’s and Departments’ technical, professional and support staff are also equipped to operate in cutting edge environs and to this end the MIS Unit at my ministry will procure the requisite hardware and software to cause this to happen and members of the MIS Unit who require retooling and skill-set adjustments locally and abroad will be facilitated under this budget.
IMPROVING THE QUALITY OF EDUCATION
Over the last fiscal period the Department of Education recognizing its role in the provision of a richer, more relevant curriculum to meet the varying talents of all students, embarked on significant reform initiatives at the administrative and school levels.
The Department of Education is aware of the many complaints from the general public, business owners and other stakeholders as to the output and functional capabilities of the majority of persons who leave our Senior High Schools. We are all aware of the complaints about the unacceptably low “National average” score in the BGCSE examinations which, last year, was a “D”.
In response to these observations and criticisms the Ministry of Education in close cooperation with the Department of Education has embarked upon the implementation of a wide ranging series of reform initiatives, designed to:
1 focus instruction upon core subjects (with greater emphasis upon on-the-job-training) for below average students;
2 implement universal after school homework centres in senior high schools and after-school study clubs in grades 9 (Junior High) and 6 (Primary);
3 standardize assessments of literacy and mathematics in those grade levels not covered by the GLAT and BJC exams;
4 and to expand the Magnet School programme from the 3 programmes presently in existence (only in New Providence) to every Senior High School in New Providence and two senior high schools in Grand Bahama in the coming academic year, and subsequently to High Schools in our Family Islands.
CORE SUBJECTS AND ON THE JOB TRAINING
After extensive consultations with the Department of Education, Principals and other school Administrators it has been determined that in the coming school year the school curriculum offerings will be divided into 3 broad areas categorized as Core, Options and Enrichment. This will be accomplished through directives as to the amount of classroom time allotted to instruction in the weekly Timetable, and by institutional support from the Ministry and Department of Education to ensure that the Directives are being implemented at the school level.
The Core subjects throughout every grade level from grade 4 to grade 12 will be five (5) academic subjects only:
1 Language Arts
3 A Science subject
4 Religious Studies
5 Social Science
Below average students will only be able to take a maximum of one (1) optional subject at the BJC level, and at Senior High level will only be permitted to take a maximum of two (2) optional subjects at the BGCSE level. Above average students will be able to choose more optional subjects in consultation with teachers and the school Principal.
There are also five (5) Enrichment subjects – designed to expose students to a greater depth and/or a more well-rounded experience throughout their education – namely:
1 Physical Education
2 Music/Performing Arts
3 Health & Family Life Education/Civics
4 Modern Language (Spanish or French)
5 Technical Careers Education/On the Job Training (in Senior High Schools and in some Junior High schools).
Core subjects will be the subject of universal testing at the BGCSE level. Enrichment subjects will not necessarily be subjects tested in the BGCSE, except where that subject is chosen by the student as an optional subject; so there is no examination for P.E., but music could become a test subject if it is chosen to be an optional subject, rather than merely remaining as an enrichment subject.
Further, the scheduling of homework and project assignments will also be controlled by the imposition of a timetable for home work assignments so as to prevent students being overloaded with extra homework and project assignments, by one teacher without any regard to the workload also being imposed by other teachers upon the same students.
This reform initiative is designed specifically to target the problem of “functional illiteracy” affecting too many school leavers, and about which the private sector has so often complained.
Further, the development of “on the job training” programmes, led by the Principal of C.C. Sweeting Senior High School, Mrs. Delores Ingraham, and now being emulated in other senior high schools, has led to the development of a level of excitement about the job market and a greater sense of responsibility among all students in the programme.
Additionally, the STEP (Student Technical Education Program) programme developed at BTVI allows for students who may have a particular interest, say in the construction trades, but whose school does not offer such a course, to attend BTVI during school hours with other students from other schools who are in a similar position.
AFTER-SCHOOL PILOT PROGRAMME
For the 10 week period of the Pilot programme between February and April of this year, 2008, every High School in The Bahamas, as well as all grades 9 and 6, participated in some way in the pilot after school homework centres and study clubs. Sessions were held on week days from 3.15 to 5.15 pm. The preliminary report indicates that in New Providence more than 1,200 students participated. 128 teachers and coordinators participated.
Stipends paid to teachers in New Providence over the total period totaled $118,000.00 (or $93.33 per child).
We made sure that food snacks were provided to all the children who participated every day. The cost of this was $60,515.64 for New Providence (or $50.43 per child) over the period.
These financial figures are only provisional and incomplete as we are still awaiting the full reports from the Family Islands and Grand Bahama.
We are still awaiting the full report and a comprehensive evaluation. In the coming year we will evaluate the recommendations of the consultant and seek to implement the full programme from the beginning ad throughout the school year.
In terms of the positive impact of this programme I can only, at this time, point to one empirical assessment which was sent to me by the Principal of the Mabel Walker Primary School, Malcolm Bridgewater, who reported that: “90% of grade 6 students (participated). The grade 6 program got started late in the school year and the pre and post tests of grade 6 showed a 38% improvement in Mathematics and a 31% improvement in (reading) comprehension.”!
If such levels of improvement can be recorded right across the board in every school then it will not be long before we can, with a sustained and focused programme, begin to see measurable improvements right across the broad spectrum of education.
One problem noted was that those students in the high schools who voluntarily participated were generally speaking in the higher streams, i.e. the students who are already academically inclined. Students in the lower academic streams, most in need of extra assistance were reluctant to participate. We are considering recommendations made by Principals and School Administrators to make attendance compulsory for students in the lower streams next year, but have not made a final decision, pending receipt of the final report and further consultations with parents.
One advantage noted was how grateful all the students were to receive the free lunches and snacks which were provided to all participants in the programme. Let me re-emphasize that most of these children were in the higher grade streams, and by conventional wisdom would tend to come from a more wholesome family environment. Yet, it was easily perceptible to the administrators how appreciative they were for the free food. Some administrators felt that this was an actual incentive for many to participate.
This observation has confirmed my belief that notwithstanding the best efforts of the Department of Social Services with the school lunch programme, there remain far too many children in are schools are “silently hungry”: too poor to be properly fed, and too proud to beg. You see, unfortunately, that is how too many Bahamian children see the lunch programme.
An additional advantage noted was that a universal after-school programme has the benefits of keeping students off the streets and out of harm’s way during those dangerous hours between 3.15 and 6.00 pm. In the coming year we will be relying upon the Department of Youth and Sports to partner with the Department of Education in the implementation of sporting components to the after-school programme so that even more students will voluntarily participate in an exciting mix of such programmes.
I would wish at this time to congratulate and to thank our Consultant, Mrs. Josephine Parker, the former Principal of C.V. Bethel Senior High School, who has worked so diligently to implement the pilot programme.
The money for this programme and the other reform initiatives that I will speak of is found in the Department of Education’s Budget allocation of $$3.5 million under the heading School Quality Assurance programme. Further an additional sum of $700,000.00 is also provided to the Department of Education specifically under the heading “After School Programme”.
Last year the Rigby Reade Assessment test was administered to all grade 2 students in government Primary Schools. The results were very encouraging as the assessment disclosed that at grade 2 results showed that 78% of students were reading at or above their grade level. Over that number 12% of students were reading at a grade 6 level or above.
This year the Rigby Reade test has been administered to students in grades 2, 4 and 5. Next year the test will be administered also to grades 7 and 8. The idea is to have standardized assessment tests administered in all grade levels not covered by the GLAT (grades 3 and 6) and the BJC (Grade 9). A mathematics assessment test, probably the Stanford Assessment test, will also be implemented across the same grade levels beginning in May of 2009.
Grade 9 students will also be administered a Differential Aptitude Test which will assist in making decisions about the inclination or career preferences shown by the individual child and which might assist parents and teachers in deciding which subjects to direct the child towards as part of his or her BGCSE studies, which would begin in the 10th grade in Senior high school.
The purpose of these assessment tests is to provide more objective assessments of student achievement which may be more reliable than the somewhat decentralized District and school-based assessment of the individual student’s GPA, which may vary in reliability between educational Districts.
The administration of such standardized testing also greatly assists in identifying children who might be at risk academically at an earlier stage in their educational experience.
Schools have been required over the past year to give written reports detailing their response and all steps taken to give individualized special attention to children identified in their school as having learning difficulties, or as being “at risk” as early as grade 2.
The reports that I have seen indicate some surprising discoveries such as the young primary school student in Abaco who was deemed to be disruptive and an “at risk” student. Due to the pressure we exerted upon school administrators over the past year to give details of all steps taken to assist “at risk” students, it was discovered that the only problem this child had was that his ear canals had been blocked by congealed ear wax. He could hardly hear. It was this minor infirmity that caused him to be consigned to the category of being “at risk”. His problem, both in terms of his ability to behave, and to learn was solved merely by having a simple treatment of removal of excess ear wax using a syringe.
Instances such as this lead me, and many educators, to seriously doubt the benefit of traditional ‘one size fits all’ programmes, such as “Character Counts” designed to “cure” ill-adjusted or at risk students. Individualized focus and attention upon the special needs of each child might work as well or even better. That is not to entirely dismiss the programme, but merely to put it in perspective as but one of many useful strategies to address the problems afflicting at risk students.
Indeed, the report of the child in Abaco, and other similar instances involving children with easily curable, but often symptomless medical conditions, has led me to wonder how many children have been short-changed by our system of education and our society, by being mis-categorized as “at risk” or “disruptive” merely because they have been afflicted by some simple, easily curable, affliction, which never receives the attention it deserves early enough to prevent irreparable damage to that child’s educational prospects.
For this reason I have requested the Ministry to have full medical examinations of all primary school students in every grade level at the start of the 2008/9 school year.
MAGNET PROGRAMME EXPANSION
Mrs. Josephine Parker, the Consultant mentioned above has also worked very hard in collaboration with principals and curriculum officers to implement our policy decision to expand the Magnet Programmes in three (3) senior high schools in New Providence, to every High School in New Providence and to two (2) high schools in the City of Freeport. This programme will expose students to Academic, Career and Technical Education, in the Sciences, Visual and Performing Arts and Modern Languages in Senior High Schools in New Providence and Grand Bahama.
These programmes will address the needs of students from across the districts with high potential, as failure to provide outstanding students with appropriate educational opportunities is “to deprive society of the best human resources that lead toward real and effective development”.
The proposed expanded Magnet Programmes will be the following subjects at the following senior high schools:
C.R. Walker – Business Studies; Academic Science; Nautical Science; and Pre-Allied Health;
C.V. Bethel – Academic Science; Pre-Allied Health; Marine Science; Information Technology and Building Trades;
Jack Hayward High – Building Trades;
C.C. Sweeting Sr. High – Hospitality and Tourism Studies;
Government High School – Performing Arts and Agricultural Science;
R.M. Bailey – Hospitality and Tourism Studies;
C.I. Gibson – Photography and Audio and Visual Technology;
St. George’s High School – Hospitality and Tourism Studies;
Doris Johnson Sr. High – Hospitality and Tourism Studies;
South-west New Providence High School – Pre-engineering and Information Technology.
As we have moved towards the full implementation of this proposed expansion of the Magnet Programme there has been extensive consultations with District Superintendents, Principals, teachers, parents, curriculum officers, the Department of Education and other stakeholders. We are also aware of the need to invest in the purchase of new tools, equipment and instructional materials which will be necessary for the proper implementation of the plan. All of these matters are being attended to.
Further, the Department of Education proposes to utilize its allocation in the 2008/2009 budget not only to continue the activities and initiatives undertaken during the 2007/8 budget year, but also to implement new programmes designed to enhance the delivery of education in our schools.
Proposed new initiatives include:
Implementation of specific Magnet Programmes, Career/Technical Education programmes in Senior High schools in New Providence and Grand Bahama.
Administration of standardized Grade Level Assessments in Math and Reading at the Grades 2, 4, 5, 7 and 8 levels and the Differential Aptitude Test (DAT) at Grade 9
Giving direct focus to the development of Distance Education programs in core subject areas utilizing a multimedia approach – print, radio, DVD/CD, TV
Restructuring/Reduction of Curriculum/subject offerings at primary and high schools targeting average/low performing students
Promotion of quality preschool programs throughout New Providence, Grand Bahama and Family Island
Further implementation and establishment of After School Clubs and well-equipped Homework Centres (ready access to technology) in each district
Completion of Curriculum Revision Exercise
Preparation of a framework for an integrated/interdisciplinary Curriculum for Lower Primary
Introduction of the award of the High School Diploma
Implementation of the Safety Net & TAPS intervention programs for High School students deemed “at risk”.
Re-introduction of Student Government in High Schools across The Bahamas – providing students opportunities to learn the principles and practices of democratic government and to have a voice in decision-making.
Implementation of the School/Community support centres in each district – enabling schools to become the hub for recreational, social and cultural activities
Establishment of peer mentoring programs to help struggling students and foster the importance of teamwork
Establishment of National Parenting Program with a specific emphasis on providing parents with much needed parenting skills
Introduction of Reading Labs in selected schools utilizing technology-aided programs
Finalization of a Ten year strategic plan for education..
The Department of Education maintains that these programmes/initiatives, when fully implemented, will enable us to respond more effectively to the diverse needs of our student population.
STRATEGIC PLAN FOR EDUCATION
For more than the past ten (10) years the Department of Education has been talking about the need to develop a Ten (10) year Plan for education. After ten years I formed the view that after ten years of talk, it was now time for action. I should also point out that the Trust Agenda calls for the development of such a Ten Year Plan; a commitment that I fully intend to carry out.
Towards this end a committee has been established to review all matters related to the public education system and develop a ten year plan to ensure that the public school system provide the opportunities for all persons in The Bahamas to gain the knowledge, skills and values required for work and success in a global environment.
Toward the achievement of this goal, specific areas of priority, strategies, and performance indicators have been identified. It is expected that through public consultation all stakeholders inclusive of parents, students, teachers, corporate partners and the public will review this document prior to its final acceptance. Areas to be addressed include the following:
Construction and maintenance of schools
Curriculum relevance, length and depth
Management of schools and the public education system
Teachers training, retention and licensure
Quality of education at preschool, primary and secondary level
Public Private Partnerships
Monitoring and Evaluation of Education
Education for sustainable economic development
Health and Safety of Schools
Special services to support teaching and learning
Development of Civic Responsibility and Work ethics
Accreditation of post secondary institution
National literacy standards
There have been some suggestions in some sections of the news media that the Strategic Plan has been completed and contains some quite novel suggestions as to the funding mechanism to be used to finance education into the future. Nothing could be further from the truth. The committee no doubt is conducting sessions with focus groups and other stakeholders as they move towards finalizing their suggestions of what should be the components of a ten (10) year strategic plan for education. When they have finished the draft document, it will then have to go through further policy-based considerations long before such a document could be finalized for public review and commentary.
REMEDIAL INITIATIVES FOR “AT RISK” OR DISRUPTIVE STUDENTS
Mr. Speaker, one of our most essential tasks this year will be to address the myriad of antisocial behaviours being displayed on and off our school campuses by a small group of defiant youth. We are aware that students’ adjustment to school and the learning environment must be supported by specialists such as school psychologists, speech therapists, and guidance counsellors and that the monitoring of the attendance of children predisposed to school failure and other psycho-social issues requires the vigilance of school attendance officers. The 2008 / 2009 budget will, in addition to facilitating these activities, not only allow for the continuation of the screening program for all preschoolers and first graders, but will support the iimplementation of the Safety Net & Transitional Alternative Program for students (TAPS) intervention programs for High School students deemed ‘at risk’. This proposed program will be based on a behavioural intervention model and is expected to provide both group and individual counseling, basic academic instruction in core subjects and an environment for students to explore possible career options in a safe, non-violent atmosphere. Our schools and the Department will, however also continue to mount intervention and prevention programs on site and in collaboration with government and non-government organizations as we attempt to address this problem of violence in our high schools.
Experience shows that schools, inclusive of administrators, teachers and other staff members are not only the guardians of standards and the catalyst for human values, but they also play a significant role in the process of improvement of students. This empowerment takes the forms of competency in the liberating skills of literacy, numeracy, critical thinking, the attainment of marketable skills and the development of social skills – all of which are the fundamental building blocks for success in school at work and throughout life. In recognition of the roles of teachers in the education process, this Ministry ensured that all schools throughout the archipelago were adequately staffed in all disciplines.
In the 2007/2008 school year some 195 teachers were hired at a cost of $3,952,250.00. Special attention was paid to the areas of Special Education, Math, Science and Modern Languages. Amongst the new teachers joining the educational system of The Bahamas were thirty-eight (38) College of The Bahamas’ graduates.
It is anticipated that this year some one hundred and twenty teachers (120) and thirty (30) teachers aides will be hired. These new hires will serve at the two new schools that we expect to come on stream. They will also serve to fill the gaps left by the annual expected loss of staff by way of retirement and resignation.
The Government is committed to ensuring that school campuses remain a safe and clean haven. To this end, fifty-eight (58) additional security officers have been added to the staff complement throughout New Providence and Grand Bahamas. Let me re-emphasize that no School Security Officer can be hired unless they can pss muster upon being positively vetted by the Royal Bahamas Police Force. In addition, some seventy-five (75) new janitorial support staff have also been hired by School Boards, using increased funding, in order to maintain the agreed ratio of janitorial personnel to classrooms. The more than $1.3 million allocation to various School Boards largely reflects these increased costs for the new hirings by School Boards.
It is understood that improving the quality of education depends a large extent on improving the recruitment, training, on-going professional development and motivation of teachers. During the 2007/2008 fiscal year over 350 student teachers received financial support for obtaining their bachelors degrees and teachers certificate. Some 105 received assistance through 2/3 tuition payment for the achievement of their bachelor degrees or diplomas in education. Furthermore, more than 200, 11th and 12th graders across the schools in The Bahamas are enrolled in the Teacher Cadet Programme.
During the 2008/2009 financial year, the recruitment of future teachers for specific disciples from areas/departments of excellence will be aggressively pursued. The identification of future teachers in the areas of Science, Mathematics, Modern Languages, Computers, Technical and Career Education and Special Education will form the basis for a comprehensive plan to ensure a consistent supply of adequate numbers of teachers in the nations schools.
Collaboration will continue with the Organization of the American States (OAS), UNESCO, Commonwealth of Learning, UWI Distance Education Programme and other Government/Non-Government Organizations to provide professional development opportunities for teachers.
The 2007/2008 budget provided of the establishment for the Leadership Institute which aimed at meeting the management needs of public school administrators. During this fiscal period, some 90 school administrators participated in the programme offered in conjunction with The College of The Bahamas. This programme consisted of an eight modular curriculum that encompassed the key components of educational leadership aimed at ensuring a hands-on, skill based experience for serving and aspiring school administrators. To ensure that this training is made available to all serving administrators, this fiscal period the Government has committed to underwriting the full cost of the programme (not including the payment of facilitators). Thus the amount of five hundred forty one thousand, five hundred and eighty two dollars ($541,582) is required by the Section to provide:
(i) tuition fees,
(ii) tuition supplies,
(iii) travel and accommodation costs for Family Island participants,
(iv) travel and accommodation costs for facilitators serving in Family Island centres.
CAREER PATH SYSTEM
The Career Path System supports the Promotion of Teachers to the post of Master and Senior Teacher. The promotion of teachers serves as an incentive for:
(a) improved salaries,
(b) the reward and recognition of excellent performance.
(c) the need to be current in the knowledge and execution of educational best practices, and
(d) the maintenance of quality instruction.
Since its inception, some 1277 teachers have participated in the promotion exercise. 99 have been promoted to Master Teachers and 178 to Senior Teachers.
The budget’s provision of one hundred eighty four thousand, three hundred and seventy two dollars, sixty cents ($184,372.60) will facilitate the Section’s procurement of:
(i) assessors fees (other than those attached as full-time Assessors);
(ii) travel and accommodation costs for Family Island assessments;
(iii) data management and courier services; and
(iv) professional development training for technical staff.
The Government’s mandate to deliver quality education to its people encapsulates the delivery of quality leadership and teaching. This allows for the emergence of efficient, effective schools which produce a student population that is equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to take advantage of continued academic and job opportunities. When this mandate is achieved the educational expectations of the Bahamian people would then have been met.
EXAMINATION AND ASSESSMENT
The Examination and Assessment Division seeks to ensure a continuing and discriminating search for the most equitable, accurate and acceptable combination of assessments necessary to identify those students destined for further educational advancement and at the same time reinforce the self esteem of those for whom the course of study is terminal by providing useful information about their achievements.
During July 2007, some 5559 third grade students and 5831 sixth grade students wrote the Grade Level Assessment Tests. The Bahamas Junior Certificate was written by 7600 ninth graders, while 6397 twelfth graders wrote The Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary Education in some 27 subjects. A review of the results of these examinations was shared with relevant technical officers, administrators and teachers who generally utilize the results as a basis for intervention strategies and improvement initiatives in the delivery of instruction. Additionally, the Division mounted workshops in Andros, Exuma, Grand Bahama and New Providence to assist with improving the understanding of the requirements for the examinations, especially at the BJC & BGCSE levels.
The Division staged the annual BJC/BGCSE National Awards Ceremony, after a three year hiatus. Students from Secondary Schools around The Bahamas were recognized for their exceptional examination performance. During 2008/2009 fiscal period, the Division will mount an intensive public relations campaign to promote a greater understanding of the grading system for national examinations. Further, the Division, in collaboration with the Department of Education will administer the Differential Aptitude Test (DAT) to all ninth grade students in May 2009. This is an aptitude and career interest tests which is presently administered to students desirous of entering the Technical Cadet Corp Programme. The test will help in the selection of students for the various magnet programmes which the Department is currently implementing.
NATIONAL LITERACY SERVICES
National Literacy Services continues to play a key role in building a literate Bahamas by working collaboratively with volunteers, tutors and other stakeholders to deliver Literacy initiatives to communities throughout the archipelago.
Last Budget allocation, allowed the Unit to conduct its Annual Month of Literacy Activities, facilitate empowering workshops for trainers and tutors, provide technological training for staff, mobilize and expand literacy services to other communities and procure additional reading and other resources vital to the progress of National Literacy Services. It also allowed staff members to keep abreast of current trends and research impacting Literacy by attending local and international conferences and workshops. Additionally, initial work commenced on the creation of a ten year Literacy Plan by a committee appointed to do so.
This fiscal year, National Literacy Services continued its quest to provide and fine tuned its strategies in providing essential literacy competencies, training, technical assistance and forgoing of collaborative partnerships. Expansion of its satellite operations in New Providence and the Family Islands and other ongoing programmes will continue. New initiatives will include organizing a Literacy Conference and Family Literacy Fun Festivals and conducting parent workshops.
The introduction of an Electronic Media programme is expected to provide more opportunities to reach low literate adults, who are unwilling to participate in formal literacy classes. A television series entitled “Literacy For Life” will allow adults to learn in the informal, non-threatening environment of their own homes and businesses. Though these 30 minute television broadcasts, adults will not only gain reading proficiencies and life skill strategies to better fulfill their roles as parents, of works and citizens, but the viewing public will be encouraged to participate in adult literacy activities.
These programmes, in addition to the 10 year Literacy Plan will help to sensitize the population that literacy is indeed the gateway to lifelong learning, personal opportunities and success.
PUBLIC LIBRARY SYSTEM
Public Libraries play a prominent role in the life of a nation and in case of The Bahamas, contributes significantly to the Tourism industry. In conjunction with the Ministry of Tourism, the Nassau Public Library provided service to a significant number of tourists in additional to the general populace.
During the 2007/2008 fiscal period, the 31 public libraries throughout The Bahamas engaged in a variety of activities aiming to motivate patrons and to assist students in their many projects. Included among these activities were:-
Summer reading programmes
Re-dedication and Re-opening ceremony of the Tarpum Bay Library
Friends of Library Inaugural Meeting
Introduction of Enrichment Reading Programme at Elizabeth Estates Library
Introduction of Information Literacy Clubs in Schools in New Providence
Job Fair at Sir George Roberts Library, Harbour Island
Story Hour at South Beach Library
Library Cadet Training Workshops held in New Providence
These activities will be continued and expanded in the new fiscal period.
PLANNING AND RESEARCH
During this Budget cycle, the Ministry of Education, Youth, Sports and Culture will seek to improve its capacity to plan and evaluate by increasing the compliment of officers posted in its Planning and Research Sector. It is recognized that planning is critical to the operation of any progressive and effective organization and greater efforts will be made to, in particular, better plan this most vital sector of national development; thereby, meeting the real educational needs of the Bahamian society.
During the course of the 2008/09 budget year, the Planning and Research Section will undertake to improve the quality of the education data by providing additional training for school administrators (principal providers of educational data), produce several publications and make the information available in the proposed Documentation Centre which will provide the public access to valuable information on the education sector.
During the 2007/2008 budgetary period, the Department of Archives appraised the records in The Bahamas Counsular office in Ottawa Canada. Additionally, the Department identified a suitable off-site storage facility for copies of the microfilm of records of the Archives and those of the Registrar General’s Department. This site will ensure the protection of information in the event of any disaster.
During the 2008/2009 fiscal period specific attention will be given to the retention and identification of interested and competent Bahamians willing to pursue careers in the area of archives and records management.
Preparatory plans will continue for the establishment of a branch office in Grand Bahama. Additionally, the Department will seek to obtain the services of a Consultant in Records Management and one as a Records Conservator. The expertise of these consultants will assist the Department with improved management and conservation of the nation’s important records. They will assist in preparation of the Department for the passage of Freedom of Information Act.
SCHOLARSHIP AND EDUCATIONAL LOAN DIVISION
Educational Loan Guarantee Programme
The Education Committee has agreed that commencing in 2008, loan grants will be awarded to students who will undertake courses of study in priority areas determined by the Government and who are enrolled in the College of The Bahamas and other accreditated institutions. Furthermore, funds have been included in the Ministry’s 2008/2009 Budget to continue the 50% interest subsidy for Education Guarantee Loans.
There has been a steady decline in the loan repayment default rate due to measures adopted by the Education Committee. Therefore, in order for the Educational Guarantee Programme to remain viable the Government has allocated funding in the 2008/2009 Budget to increase collection initiatives. These initiatives are inclusive of the engagement of additional professional staff, an aggressive media campaign, salary deduction for Government employees, garnishment of wages and court action.
National Scholarship Programme
The amount allocated for National Scholarships has been increased by $1 million this year from $3.5 million to $4.5 million. Of this increased sum of money, again the sum of $1 million has been allocated to The College of The Bahamas for the grant of need-based scholarships at that institution.
Last year the College of The Bahamas has confirmed that out of the $1 million which was provided for needs-based scholarships last year they were able to give financial help to a total of 783 students, at a total cost of $879,604.18. That is 783 young Bahamians who might otherwise Not have been able to attend COB!
Of the 783 students, 207 students came from Grand Bahama and the Family Islands, and 576 hailed from Nassau.
It is anticipated that in addition to current commitments, the following scholarships and grants will be awarded this fiscal year:
National Scholarship Programme (Merit, Academic and Technical Training) – 40 scholarships
National Grant 75 awards ranging from $5,000 to $10,000
Continuing Education Grants – 25 awards
Merit Awards – 8 inclusive of 2 for person pursuing teacher education degrees with concentration in Math and Science
Governments Commitment to Educating its Citizens, 2008/2009
Allocation of funds:
Guaranteed Loan Programme – New Students $ 3,400,000
Guaranteed Loan Programme – Existing Students $11,900,000 (estimate)
National Scholarship Programme (New & Existing)
– Grants $3,000,000 National Award & Bursary $ 525,500
Teacher Education Grant, (Tuition) $ 750,000
Teacher Education Grant $ 782,900
All Bahamas Merit Award $ 55,500
Gerace Research Awards (Room & Board) $ 300,000