Fifty Three…

Next week, ferries, cars and pink buses will fill with school children. Some starting their first year – Primary One – P1. Others, their thirteenth year – Senior Four – S4.

            About 1,200 students will be sequestered in the two public senior schools. These two schools run four-year programs, so there will be about 300 students in each year-group. Thus, in June of 2006, Bermuda should expect to have almost 300 youngsters graduating from S4. 

            We’ve finally been told – though the evidence always pointed to it – that public senior schools graduated only 53% of their students. We’ve not been told that 2005 was an ‘annus horribilis’. Intimations were that 2005 was a normal year.

            So, next year, in June 2006, after thirteen years in the system, do we expect to see only 159 [53%] of Senior Four’s 300 students graduate? What about the 141 [47%] who won’t graduate?

            Are these 141 youngsters just so much social chaff and human waste to be written off the 2006 educational balance sheet? Or, are these 141 genetically inferior?

            Consider these situations.

            Bank of Bermuda HSBC reports a return on investments of 53%. Good!

            A savings bank offers to pay 53% interest on savings accounts. Good!

            Order $20 ‘gas’. The attendant pumps in $10.60 [53%] and demands $20 payment. Good?

            Pay for a case of beer and receive only 53% [13 bottles] Good?

            Depending on the situation, fifty-three percent can be good or bad.

            In education, 53% is bad. Bermuda’s 53% system is a failing system. Bermuda’s educating system competes with educating systems that routinely graduate 80% to 90% of their intakes. No amount of anguished expressions or sympathetic reasons can change this failure reality.

            Bermuda is a sophisticated socio-economic setting that now places a premium on intellectual skills. Like all other advanced economies, Bermuda has experienced a decline in the need for low skill manual labour.  In this socio-economic setting, Bermuda’s public educating system is producing a surfeit of people [47%] who are only capable of low skill manual labour. Bermuda’s public system is actually increasing the pool of under-educated young people who are unable to find a place in Bermuda’s existing economic structure.

            There are two obvious outcomes. Under-educated Bermudians, unable to perform in Bermuda’s existing and future socio-economic environment, could be shipped overseas to be expats in countries where their physical labour will be welcomed. In so doing, they will be the same as the high-school graduates from Goa and Barbados and the UK who are shipped into Bermuda to provide the skills that our 47% do not – and cannot – provide.

            It’ll be a balancing exchange. Trained foreign workers fly into Bermuda.  Bermuda then compensates and balances by shipping out under-educated Bermudians to other countries, there to be employed as unskilled labour.

            If we do not export Bermudians, we will warehouse them at Westgate – which is already filled to capacity. Either way, we’ll deal with that 47%. We’ll do one – or the other. Warehouse or ship out. The only two outcomes.

            Fix? Put in place – now! – programs that actually deal with the oft-complained about under-fed, badly-fed, under-cared for, un-cared for, ill-disciplined, un-disciplined, badly-parented, un-parented, fathered, un-fathered, students.

            There’s limited value in insisting that parents of students change their parenting methods and styles. A twenty or thirty year old ‘baby mama’ is least amenable to any change requested by any outside agencies.  Same for ‘baby daddy’s’. 

            A five to ten year-old youngster is the entity most easily changed by the action of outside agencies. By age fifteen, any opportunity for real change may have been lost. It certainly has reduced.

            Act now.  Change the system. Demand, plan for, and work for better results now. Next year, in June 2006, 53% or 55% or 60% just won’t do. Bermuda is in cut-throat global competition. Bermuda must drag itself up to existing global standards.

            Altering the BSSC and changing the BSC ‘pass mark’ hasn’t worked. It won’t work. It can’t work. In order to compete, 80% to 90% of Bermuda’s public school students must become at least as numerate and as literate as Bermuda’s real competition.

            The real competition for Bermuda’s public education system? It’s not Bermuda’s ‘private schools’.  Bermuda’s private schools are merely on-island institutions whose performance is most readily visible.

            The real competition is with all those public education systems in Goa and Barbados and UK and Canada and…  It is the graduates from these systems who are steadily shipping – or being shipped – into Bermuda.  These are the people filling that 47% void.


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