The advancement of the Bahamian educational system will be a key aspect of Minister of Education the Hon. Jeffrey Lloyd’s tenure.
Minister Lloyd was in Grand Bahama on Wednesday, making his third official visit, since accepting his portfolio to lead the educational system within the public sector. The minister returned to Grand Bahama, in particular, to give the keynote address at the Ministry of Education Grand Bahama, Bimini and the Cays District’s Teachers’ Enrichment Day Ceremony at the Jack Hayward Senior High School Gymnasium.
To demonstrate his determination to enhance the system Minister Lloyd, by utilizing a culture advocated by other countries, emphasized the importance of “education reform, innovation and creativity.”
“Those places that we aspire to be like are continuously evaluating and assessing and seeing how they could be better. It is important for The Bahamas to do the same, to keep up with the advancements of the world. For the last 10 years the Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE) results have not showed much improvement if any.
“We started out at a D, we are still at a D. Something is wrong. The first thing educators can do to fix this problem is to go back to basics. We must begin with the preschools.
“In September 2010, Time Magazine wrote an article of a 10-year study. The study reflected that that period of gestation between the moment of conception and the time that the child is born is the most important period in a human being’s life.
Some time last year the Inter-American Development Bank produced a book called The Early Years which identified that in the Latin-American and the Caribbean Region on average, our 0-5 year-olds know fewer words and have less cognitive ability than their peers in the developed society.
“The book also showed that we invest about $3,500 in primary school education by comparison only $500 is invested in preschools.
“We are failing our society,” he said.
Thus, according to Minister Lloyd, beginning this year, the Ministry of Education will place great emphasis on the two and a half to three year olds.
“Hopefully we are going to mandate that all two and a half to three year olds must be in a Ministry of Education-approved school,” he said. He indicated being disturbed about certain relevant data relating to preschool education in the country.
Minister Lloyd revealed that according to information he was provided with, “less than half of our preschoolers attend an appropriate program in the country.” He warned that if this is not addressed the country will be set up for “catastrophic failure.”
the minister strongly feels that curriculum development must also be addressed. He furthered that students in primary schools should take over 10 subjects and do not have time to learn by playing.
He threw out the challenge for young students to focus on numeracy, literacy, oral skills, but most importantly emotional, social and cognitive skills.
The Minister expressed the viewpoint that some of the problems in education stem from a lack of cognitive development in children. Cognitive development is the construction of thought processes, including remembering, problem solving, and decision-making, from childhood through adolescence to adulthood.
One of the examples he presented was children not being allowed to play in school.
“Children are supposed to play. Children at play are solving problems, creating, experimenting, thinking and learning all the time. This is why play supports your preschooler’s cognitive development, which is, a child’s ability to think, understand, remember, imagine and work out what might happen next,” said Minister Lloyd.
He stated that the curriculum should feature subjects such as Art, Drama, and Music to help develop students’ life skills.
“Life is changing at a break-neck speed and our curriculum must reflect it. This will prepare children for future jobs. Technology should be integrated in all schools because that is the way information is shared in the world and some schools on the island do not even have Wi-Fi.
He added that there must also be (overall) professional development to improve the system.
“We don’t have a major walkup professional institute here in Grand Bahama but we’re going to make it happen for you,” he said. He believes as well, that the educators have a primary responsibility, that of upgrading themselves.
“I spoke to my dear brothers and sisters in the unions, my stakeholder team members and informed that we are going to make money available so that you can upgrade yourselves, and (provide) scholarships, and grants so that you can get your Masters and your PHDs,” he said.
The other aspect of improvement he addressed related to facilities, especially air conditioning units and structural renovations.
“I promise you this. We will soon begin an aggressive building and rebuilding plan in our school system. We have to do it because the infrastructure has failed in many instances,” he said.
Minister Lloyd finally requested that all educators do their part to the improve the system.
He stated that education and teaching is the most difficult job next to parenting, and educators must be wholly committed to the profession without seeking rewards and know that it is not a regular job.
“Teaching is life itself,” he said.
The Minister vowed to visit the island once again to get an update on the students.