The government is hoping to better prepare Bahamians for work or college by ensuring that they get at least a minimum standard of education.
While its implementation is several years off, funding has been allocated in the 2012/2013 Budget for a new standardised national high school diploma.
“Recipients of the national high school programme will have to satisfy a set of criteria to ensure that a student has at least attained a minimum of 9th grade level education. It is expected that the national high school diploma will come on stream sometime before June 2016,” Minister of Education, Science and Technology, Jerome Fitzgerald revealed during his budget contribution in the House of Assembly.
Countless students who have not had the opportunity to complete high school will be given the chance to earn a general education diploma (GED), equivalent to a regular high school diploma.
“Consideration will be given to the experiences that the application may be gained through work experiences along with a specific set of criteria,” the minister explained.
“To this end, the Department of Education is mandated to open its evening institutes, which will provide adult students an opportunity to return to classes to pursue academic courses, which would increase their eligibility for the award of the GED. It is expected that four such institutes will reopen in New Providence before October 2013 and one in each Family Island.”
Over the next five years, the government also proposes to expand pre-school education at Sandilands Primary, Claridge Primary, Stephen Dillet Primary, Mable Walker Primary, Yellow Elder Primary, Walter Park Primary, Lowe Sound Primary, George Town Primary and Moores Island All Age schools.
“The effect of the economic recession has resulted in an increase in demand and population in government pre-schools. In some cases, the Department of Education had to go beyond the standard ratio per class and extend services to parents who had just lost their job or who were experiencing family difficulties and were referred by social services,” the minister said, adding that a similar problem exists in lower primary grades.
“…It is a general consensus in our lower primary grades that the curriculum is too overcrowded and as a consequence, insufficient attention is given to core areas and critical concepts. Hence, too much superficial learning takes place.
Consequently, the Department of Education will restructure programmes offered in our lower primary grades to reflect fewer subjects and increase the time allocated to core subjects.”
In line with the government’s Charter for Governance, the Examination and Assessment Division will reintroduce two subjects at the Bahamas Junior Certificate (BJC) level in the coming fiscal year.
“In September 2012, students entering grade seven will begin a three-year preparation for BJC Spanish and Literature examinations. The benefits of assessing these subjects at the ninth grade cannot be over emphasised.
According to Minister Fitzgerald, there will be continued focus on students with learning disabilities and those deemed socially at risk.
“In this vein, we will expand the male programme SURE and our programme for at-risk females. This expansion will include four additional classrooms at the SURE campus, which will commence this summer and is expected to be completed before September 2012,” he said.
“This programme will involve multi-agencies – school policing, school services and school psychological services. A coordinated approach will be taken in order to achieve maximum results.”
The Christie administration has made no secret of its plans to reintroduce police in schools in a bid to maintain a safe environment.
Mr. Fitzgerald is convinced that if properly organised and implemented such a move would result in a win-win over time.
“Principals unanimously agreed that the need for police in schools is essential, particularly around the time when students are arriving to school, during breaks and lunch periods and when school is being dismissed, particularly around the areas where buses pick them up,” he said.
“The presence of police during these times can significantly reduce violent crime and activities around school. There will be a zero tolerance policy for violence on school grounds and that will apply to students, parents and teachers. I have also recommended that police be utilised to speak to students on special occasions with regard to conflict resolutions, the law and the responsibility of students with respect to peer pressure and respect for others.”