Level the playing field

Education Minister El James' recent comments concerning his confidence in the private school system over the public one only further highlights that the public school system is broken and should be scrapped in favour of a voucher based system.  Our island will never overcome the historical effects of racism if we cannot level the playing field for opportunity.  The education ministry has simply added far too much beurocracy and time and time again failed to rise up to the standard set by the private schools. so why not cut out the middle man and give everyone the means to the same level of education?

Quoted recently in The Royal Gazette, Minister James suggested

"We have an education system that we want to make the number one choice on this Island," he said. "If it's not the number one choice at the moment, everyone has the choice to put their children where they want."

Unfortunately this isn't the case.  Everyone with the means to put their children in the private system can do so, but not everyone has the means, especially those Minister James' party claims to represent.  Thus, the cycle perpetuates where a wealth disparity once created by racism is no longer maintained by racism but the maintenance of the status quo.  Namely, those who are and have become wealthy can pass on the opportunity of a good education however those who are not and have been deprived of the opportunity have no means to provide it to their children.  Sadly, the rich continue to get richer and the poor poorer.

Minister James continues

"I'm going to look at where [the private schools] are; I'm going to use their levels as my target. That's where I want to be or even better."

Why use private schools as a target when you could cut out the middle man and actually use the private schools?  Simplify the system but cutting the Ministry of Education down to an oversight and standards body, sell the public schools to the private sector and give every Bermudian student a voucher they can use to attend the school of their choice. 

Both a UBP government and a PLP government have proven is that education is not working in the hands of the public sector.  We continue to change tack, strategize, add level upon level of beurocracy and in the end all that happens is that those without the means continue to suffer.  It is a terrible shame that no Bermudian should be proud of.  Can we please just cut out the middle man and pursue a voucher system so everyone can have the means to opportunity as opposed to just the rich?



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12 thoughts on “Level the playing field

  1. Wonder if there’s a precedent in small countries to go with the kind of system you’re suggesting… I also wonder if there’s a movement for the private sector to own schools. It’s an interesting idea, how practical is it in such a small country?

  2. Denis,
    I went to a private school and went to University in Canada. My findings were that the Canadian public schools were superior to my Bermudian private school. With that being said, I don’t believe that Bermuda’s private schools have the best model to replicate. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that Bermuda’s private schools are superior to Bermuda’s public schools, but I feel that even Bermuda’s private schools could be improved.

  3. Justin,
    No arguement here. My feeling would be to privatise via a voucher system and then reform the Dept of Education into a regulatory oversight body for private schools to incentivise them to meet international standards and continually improve education levels.

  4. Denis,
    To be honest. Instead of the government using all these American consultants on education, why doesn’t the Ministry of Education get some Canadians in here and adopt the Ontario public school curriculum? If the Bermudian government implemented the curriculum, if I were a parent, I’d be pulling my kid out of the private system and into the public system.
    I know I’ve simplified this way too much, but it just makes more sense to me. Especially when it’s widely known that the Americans haven’t exactly mastered their own education system. I mean, why would we take advice from the Americans when their education system isn’t the best? I know I’m sounding very anti-American, but I’m really not. I’m just trying to get the bigget bang for our buck as a tax paying citizen.

  5. Justin,
    Perhaps, but what evidence is there that the Canadian curriculum is the best, especially Ontario?
    My concern is that the Gov keeps changing tack and ultimately doesn’t appear to actually be getting anywhere. Too much bureaucracy, too many people wanting quick solutions, too much spin and hype, too much bickering and putting individuals before our youth. Quite simply, education has become far too politicized and the best thing that could be done in my eyes is to remove the political element.

  6. Regarding the new Ontario curriculum, the following report is quite interesting:
    Of note:
    The four-year graduation rate for the first cohort of the Reorganized Program is approximately
    57 percent of the base Grade 9 enrolment four years before (see Figure 1). The four-year graduation rate improves to about 59 percent for the second cohort. These figures are well below those in other provinces (e.g., British Columbia: 72%, New Brunswick: 83%, and Nova Scotia: 82%).

    Not only is the four-year graduation rate well below the rates in other provinces but also the five-year graduation rate is well below the Ontario rate before the Reorganized Program was introduced in 1999 (70% vs 78%).

  7. Denis,
    The Bermuda public education system produced a graduation rate of over 95% last year. Does that make Bermuda’s public education system better than Canada’s?

  8. Justin,
    I wish that were the case however you’re comparing apples to oranges.
    Note, the FOUR YEAR graduation rate above of 57%. That means they count the number of students entering school in grade nine then count the number who graduated four years later and come up with 57%. As noted, the five year graduation rate is 70%
    Now, lets compare this to the quoted 96% graduation rate (http://www.royalgazette.com/siftology.royalgazette/Article/article.jsp?sectionId=60&articleId=7d8a72f3003000b)
    “Graduation rates rose by five percent this year to reach 96 percent, according to Gover
    The figures are based on the number of students enrolled and pursuing their BSC in their S4 year as denominator”
    Having S4 as the denominator means that you’re counting the number of students who enter S4 vs the number who exist S4, ie the number who enter year four, not year one, vs. the number who exist year four, so a 1 year basis.
    Now, not only does Canada calculate graduate rates on a four year basis, so too does the US (https://www.21square.com/2007/07/how-america-cou.html)
    Government cherry picks the numbers and ignores a massive dropout problem or some other very concerning trend (https://www.21square.com/2007/07/cherry-picking-.html)
    Again for further evidence, note how in 2006 there was a graduation rate of 48% for 309 S4 students vs 2007 when the graduation rate was 82% for 212 S4 students (https://www.21square.com/2007/07/something-missi.html) Ask yourself, how did we have a fluctuation of nearly 100 students in S4 in just one year?
    It’s been an ongoing saga (https://www.21square.com/2007/10/rhetoric-101-if.html)
    Now, we could get realistic about education but that would require us to stop using it as a political football now wouldn’t it?
    Indeed, as I noted, we could supply every single Bermudian student with personal tutors via the internet for $100 a month, or even better $800 a year. (https://www.21square.com/2007/09/a-revolution-in.html, http://www.tutorvista.com/) That’s what, $4 million a year for 5000 students to have unlimited one on one assistance? Oh right, we need that money for football, cricket and Beyonce, how silly of us to think of such a flagrant waste of money such as tutoring.

  9. Denis,
    I couldn’t agree more with you.
    I’m just saying that the Canadian system is pretty good, and that graduation rates alone should not be the single performance measure used to determine the best public school system. I believe that the Canadian curriculum is harder than Bermuda’s curriculum. Afterall, Canadian students have options to take university level classes before leaving high school. Classes like this, while harder, prepare students better for university, but we also might see a significant increase in the fail rate as well. This, I believe, is a neccessary evil.

  10. Denis – not to change the subject; but all of your arguments can be translated directly towards the other failing ministry in Bermuda – Tourism.
    I say it’s time to take away the political football and create an independant body to oversee this area of our lives too. The politicians don’t seem to have any idea what they are doing, other than wasting money left right and center. IMHO of course.

  11. Denis,
    I think part of the problem with public schools are the students. When I attended school, you had to meet certain exam requirements to attend certain schools, I think for example Warwick Academy required a 7, 7. If you had a behavior problem you most likely were not going to do well on the placement exam and you where not going to get into Warwick Academy. This helped by moving most of the “problem students” to schools like Robert Crawford, leaving those who wanted to learn in the mostly trouble free schools.
    Private schools will remove any “problem students”, the nature of the fee keep most of them out. I think we also find in private schools that the parents have a vested interest in the childs education, since they are paying, so most (not all) will play a greater roll in their childs education. ”
    Your solution while noble is not realistic, you will dilute the cream of our crop, with problem children. Children being raised (or not being raised )by parents or a parent who cannot afford them, who neglect and ruin them.

  12. J Galt,
    Please correct me if I’m misinterpreting but what I’m getting from your comment is that your reservations towards privatizing the entire school system is that it would mix the bad apples with the goods ones, thereby risking the whole bunch.
    The problem I have with such a sentiment, if that is what you’re suggesting is that it effectively gives up on ‘problem children’. Those children most likely stemming from poor families, likely disfunctional and most in need of a step up in life while favoring those children from strong wealthy families. Speaking very generally I believe such a sentiment risks continuing placing a silver spoon in the mouths of children born to wealthy, predominately white families while sacrificing the poor, predominately black families that are most in need of a leg up.
    Without coming up with a solution that levels the playing field for all youth we risk an endlessly divided society.
    How do we create a solution that levels the playing field? We manipulate the incentives.
    I’ll see if I can throw together a piece that outlines what I mean in better detail, will prob take a few days to find the time though.

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