There are different opinions on which period was considered the best period in Bahamian education. For example,
Rev. Dr. Charles Saunders had once said that the period between 1942 and 1967 were some of the best years in Bahamian education because Bahamians wanted to learn and they strove for excellence. On the contrary, the late Dr. Keva Bethel (pictured right), the 1992 president of the College of the Bahamas (now University of The Bahamas), had said that the 1967-1980s era of education had seen its peak.
Whatever the case may be, it’s obvious that the level of education had fallen sometime in the 1980s and have had trouble picking back up since.
In fact, things got so bad that in 2012, The Campaign for the Bahamas found that a staggering 3,345 students, which was 56% of students who sat the Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE) examinations, received a D average and below.
This meant that more than half of the students graduating high school that year lacked the cognitive skills needed for general employment and were ill-equipped to continue with tertiary education. Please note that this figure did not include students who dropped out of school before completing the BGCSE or who opted not to take the national exams (it would increase to 70% if they were included).
How are we looking today?
The 2018 examination results looked slightly better as the number of students receiving a grade of D and below decreased to 52%. However, it still means that the majority of students who sat the exam still lacks the cognitive skills needed for employment.
This is worrisome because quality education is highly important for the development of a well-informed public who can advocate for good-paying jobs and make substantial contributions to the local economy. Without it, it means that we will always be prone to:
- high criminal activity,
- poor work ethics and practices,
- The Bahamas becoming a less desirable place to conduct business and Bahamians will be considered the last to be chosen for jobs,
- brain-drain due to stifling opportunities to produce new careers and
- Government corruption and cronyism
Now, of course, there are other issues surrounding the BGCSE exam itself including its grading system. For example, there are two parts/papers to most subject exams; core and extended. The highest grade that you can receive in the core paper is a C whilst the grades for the extended paper can range from A-G. Sadly, most grade 12 students are only entered to sit the Core paper. But, this is silly because these students aren’t given a fighting chance to achieve higher than a C in their last year of school, thus skewing the results towards the negative. It’s almost as if the system wants us to fail while subconsciously telling us that we are imbeciles.
But the question is why?
“To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to always remain a child.”
This famous quote from Marcus Tullius Cicero tells us how important it is to look at the past to understand our present situation and learn from it. Therefore, in order to begin to comprehend our current socio-economic woes that can be linked to education, we have to look at situations and circumstances that led us to this point.
Our present situation can be linked to slavery and the issue of educating an individual who was considered nothing more than cattle. The church eventually stepped in and tried to improve the situation but the issue of an illiterate black public still prevailed. The way teachers were trained and compensated was another issue that lasted for almost 50 years and the Government’s involvement and contribution to education has always been abysmal. I will take a look at each of these topics in detail.
But first, how did education generally look in the new 1717 Woods Rogers colony?
psh School?! My Child? That’s unnecessary!
Up until 1836, education in the Bahamas was considered a luxury. This wasn’t far-fetched because as you would have seen in my previous post history of tutoring around the world, education was always only accessible to the elite while the poor regarded it as unnecessary because they were in survival mode.
Suffice it to say, the Bahamas was filled with poor people in survival mode as slavery was not as lucrative in this colony as it was in the others.
And may I remind you that before 1717 (when the Bahamas first became a British colony through the arrival of Woods Rodgers), The Bahamas was a haven for pirates. So it is easy to imagine that the population had the mindset of the pirates who were here, which was to drink, party and play games/gamble. This mentality would have existed until the Loyalists came in 1783 and maybe even through to today.
The American Civil War of 1783 had a definite impact on the Bahamas, one of those influences being in education.
Britain had to sign an agreement with American Revolutionaries to exchange Florida for the Bahamas. This allowed Americans who were loyal to the British crown (called Loyalists) access to land in the Bahamas so they could have moved out of the United States. However, when they arrived, they thought that the current Bahamians were uncivilized and they tried to separate themselves by calling them ‘conchy joes.’
Also, let me remind you that slavery still existed during this time. Therefore, most black people were already considered 1/10th of a human. So who were the Loyalists referring to then? Just guess the color of their skin.
You guessed it. They were white.
Poor, uneducated white people.
So in addition to the vapid racism that existed, classism is now starting to take its shape which had leaked into the partially nonexistent educational system (Could you imagine that? Someone comes into YOUR land and looks down on YOU and you can’t do anything about it. Colonizers for ya).
Noting this, the Church decided to step in and tried to rectify this situation. This will be further explained in part II of this series.
What are your thoughts on the current educational system so far? Please leave your comments and suggestions below. I’d love to hear about them.