What about the teachers?-History of education in the Bahamas part IV

Teachers being underpaid is not only historical, it’s devastating

Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

How is it that for the past 300 years teachers are still underpaid? Like seriously. You would think that after a while, we would realize that teachers are the foundation of our society because they help to rear future leaders and ambassadors to the country.

Yet, they are still expected to perform and provide materials in their classrooms with a salary that barely takes them month to month. Well, there are some possible reasons why this is the case, particularly in the Bahamas.

  1. The earlier teachers (between 1717 and 1836) taught because they had nothing else in their skill set. So think about it. If you were unable to learn proper survival skills, like farming, fishing or building, and since education was considered a luxury, teaching the common man was considered something similar to a hobby, i.e. worthless. It’s like taking up horseback riding in this day and age of motor transportation: it’s reserved for the elites because it is expensive and doesn’t make economic sense when cars are used for transportation.
  2. The British Government did not step in and start paying teachers a stipend until 1746 but even then it was sporadic and the amount was minuscule.
  3. A lot of these teachers lacked the qualifications to teach. And by a lot, I mean the majority. In 1821, the Central School of the Bahamas introduced a system called the Madra/Dr. Bell/Monitorial system that stayed in the Bahamian educational format for 146 years because it was a cheaper alternative to paying qualified teachers (who were still underpaid by the way). It seemed like a benefit financially, however, because a lot of these teachers were under-qualified, most of them were terrible teachers. That’s just the reality. There were some under-qualified teachers who had the natural ability and the discipline to teach but they were few and far in between.

Now it is important to note that, it’s not the qualifications that make the best teacher. It’s their ability to effectively disseminate the information to their students that makes a good teacher. So was the monitorial system all bad? Not necessarily. Let me explain it in more detail.

Young Monitors

The Monitorial System, also known as the Madras system or Bell-Lancaster system (after it’s creators Andrew Bell and Joseph Lancaster), was made out of a need to educate a large population of students at a low cost in 19th Century Europe.

In this system, both Lancaster and Bell found that children learned better when they were able to teach other children within their age group because of a 35AD Roman saying, Qui docet, discit “He who teaches, learns” that Lancaster stumbled upon.

The Roman Catholic church was one of the first to adopt the system which then eventually trickled into local school systems in the colonies.

It is called the Madras system as well because Bell once lived and taught in Madras, India. While there, he had an idea to create a school for boys who were born illegitimately to Indian mothers and European soldiers so that they were allowed a chance to become active members of society and avoid their mother’s “corruption.”

Then one day, he asked one of his students to teach the alphabet to several others in a field which fueled his idea of creating the system. That same student ended up teaching 91 other students by 12 years old. Bell took his findings to London but it didn’t receive any attention until Lancaster had posted his findings on creating an elaborate school system on a large scale. Eventually, the two systems were merged into one because of their similarities.

Image by himanshu gunarathna from Pixabay

Within this newly merged system, the schoolmaster would select a few of his most advanced students (called monitors) who would then teach their peers. This allowed the schoolmaster to essentially teach hundreds of students in a room at the same time.

To ensure that the monitors were doing their jobs correctly, they were under strict surveillance by the schoolmaster and were given strict disciplinary measures if they underachieved: their names would be listed in a ‘Black Book’ and their faults would be read out loud in “moral terms” to the entire school. That student would then be demoted and replaced by another high achiever.

In the Bahamas, the system didn’t quite translate the same. Schoolmasters taught only a small group of advanced students and then he left them to teach other classes. There was no accountability for the monitors themselves and thus, they were able to stay in their positions for decades.

Now it is important to note that the problem with under-qualified Bahamian teachers of the 19th and 20th century can’t all be blamed on the teachers themselves. The fact of the matter is that the teacher preparatory schools that were available during those times were very few in numbers and had strict acceptance policies, Government High being one of them (yes THE Government High).

Eventually, the monitorial system was replaced by Glasgow system which favored trained teachers with higher levels of education (but again, this did not reach the Bahamas until mid 20th century).

Final Verdict

The monitorial system did have some positives to it because it is true that you learn the best when you are able to teach the subject. I can personally attest to this statement because I remember understanding an extremely tough chemistry concept after I had to explain it to one of my peers in the class.

Secondly, the older generation (particularly the baby boomers) of the Bahamas attest to the greatness of the monitorial system because they felt as though they were getting the best quality education because it set a firm foundation.

Thirdly, it should be noted that a monitor is essentially a tutor. So if the student knows a subject extremely well and can convey their knowledge better than a teacher can (or in a way that is different from a teacher) then I say, why not! It takes the pressure off of the teacher (especially now in overcrowded classrooms) while simultaneously aiding in the student’s understanding of the topic.

In fact, it is starting to re-emerge again in another form called ‘self-directed learning’ where students take initiatives to figuring out their needs and answering a problem by themselves. This can then evolve to be peer-directed in which the students sit in pairs and solve a complex problem together.

So now you may be asking, “if students can become tutors themselves in the classroom, then why would I still have to pay a private tutor or mentor?”

Well, it is still good to have a private tutor with more experience in teaching and/or subject matter than a student. Because let’s face it, in overcrowded classrooms, there are students who are bound to slip through the cracks of the curriculum, no matter how many students help them. Also, higher-achieving students tend to give out answers to their peers rather than have the patience to explain how they arrived at that answer. Thus, a private tutor will not only help them understand but cultivate their critical thinking in order to solve a more complex problem that is similar in nature.

Should this private tutor be a trained teacher? Not necessarily because there are a lot of professionals who have a natural ability to convey information in an easily digestible manner. But they must have sufficient knowledge in the subject and are matured and disciplined enough to handle the responsibility of mentoring someone younger than them.

This then brings me to my last point: You should also pay all educators their worth. This rubric should include their qualifications, student and parent satisfaction, dedication and results over a period of time. The teaching environment should also be made with minimal stress from administration and allowed flexibility and creativity with curricula and lesson planning.

Is this the reality though? Not at all, which is why extra access tutoring is an important supplement to school. Never-the-less, I think that because of our history with the monitorial system in the Bahamas (and probably around the world), it has really shaped the idea that tutorship and teaching should be free or extremely inexpensive because students have been used as teachers for over a century. Also, educators and education have never been taken seriously by the Government because churches always pervaded this area in this country.

What do you think? should educators have a salary increase? Are you willing to pay your child’s tutor their worth? Please leave your thoughts and opinions in the comment section below. And don’t worry about nationality because I’m sure this is a worldwide problem. I’d love to hear what you think.

Image by จักรพันธ์ สุขเวช from Pixabay

8 thoughts on “What about the teachers?-History of education in the Bahamas part IV”


Hi there! This is a really great and informative article. I believe that many people think there are so many teachers so it would be a waste of money to pay them a fair salary. It will be interesting to see if anything changes with the salaries of teachers going forward. I’ll be sure to check out your site to find out.

    Tyranique Thurston

    I’m definitely looking forward to a salary increase for teachers as well in all honesty. 

    Thank you for taking the time to read my article and also subscribe so that you can get the latest information when I present it! 🙂


I think it’s a serious tragedy how little teachers make in some areas around the world. Even in 1st world countries like Canada and the US, teachers are always fighting to earn a fair wage.

Considering that education is basically the foundation for anything you do in life, why can’t the earnings be higher? I mean, we pay athletes and movie stars wild amounts of money and they’re not the ones raising our youth. Skills and knowledge are the most valuable things a person can have.

I did not know about Lancaster and Bell though, that was a very interesting bit of history, thank you.

    Tyranique Thurston

    Exactly Tyson. I’m not exactly sure why teachers are always placed on the back burner even after they have received the qualifications and accolades that would normally allow for a salary increase but I intend to find out.

    I’m happy that you were able to learn something new with this article! Don’t be a stranger and come back again to see any other posts that might intrigue you. 


As this is a worldwide issue.  Teaching our children is the most important part of growing up they go for almost 18 years and some can retain some amazing amounts of information and take them to the moon.  Others struggle and that is where teachers come in and step up to the plate on helping them grow and learn in a great setting.  Just having the kids hanging out helps but putting a great teacher in front of them will make them into an unstoppable adult able to do anything they want.

Teachers should get paid what they deserve but I do think with this mindset the guidelines should be as many licenses that a teacher holds or degrees I guess.  This should have a way of creating a scale to pay these amazing teachers and help them to better their own schooling also.  I hope this comment makes sense and helps with the questions at the end also great info and I thank you.


    Tyranique Thurston

    Just for clarification, is it that you’re saying that teachers should be paid based upon the license that they hold and the degree’s that they would have received?


I find it a shame that teachers are underpaid in many countries, including my home country. I’m a teacher, a graduate and I know many people who chose not to teach but rather became entrepreneurs because of the earnings. Especially for men, if they have to provide for their family, it is essential to have a well-paid job. I think teachers and tutors should get a decent salary they can live on.
I like the monitorial system you described, to me it seems like a good idea.

    Tyranique Thurston

    It’s always a shame to hear that teachers have to take up side jobs just to keep their families afloat. It shouldn’t be that way for a profession that requires a lot of hard work.

    And the monitorial system can work, it just need to be regulated in a way that is beneficial for both the students and the teachers.

    Thank you for taking the time to read the article! 

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