Dr. Edmond Heatley,  Chairman of the Board of Education, Curtis Dickerson and Acting Minister of Education Grant Gibbons *Photo supplied
Dr. Edmond Heatley,  Chairman of the Board of Education, Curtis Dickerson and Acting Minister of Education Grant Gibbons *Photo supplied

The Commissioner of Education is going back to grassroots to help raise school standards — by speaking to children themselves.

US education expert Dr Edmond Heatley is just weeks into his new job but is already sounding out Bermuda’s students on what they think of the system.

Government’s Budget Book has set out targets for the Bermuda Public School System (BPSS) to reach by 2015, to raise standards.

Taken from the Blueprint for Reform in Education, they are:

90 per cent of students will graduate with a Grade Point Average (GPA) of 2.0 (70 per cent or better).

• 80 per cent of exam students achieve the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE).

• 80 per cent achieve a score at or above three on the six point Cambridge scale, in Primary Six Checkpoint.

• 80 per cent achieve at or above three points in Middle Three Checkpoint.

Yesterday, Education Minister Nalton Brangman outlined this year’s BPSS academic results — the third year of the Cambridge International Examinations among primary, middle and senior school students. The exams cover English, mathematics and science.

The BPSS exceeded the performance indicator of 90 per cent of students graduating with a GPA of 2.0, but the results showed a clear gap between boys and girls.

Of the 217 students graduating with a Bermuda School Certificate (BSC), 123 were girls and 94 were boys.

Of the Senior Year Four Cohort (227 students), 96 per cent graduated with a GPA of 2.0 or better — a two per cent improvement on the previous academic year (2011-12). Twenty of these students (nine per cent of S4 Cohort) achieved a GPA of 3.2 or above, but only three of these were boys.

Commenting on the gap between the sexes and whether he felt motivation was a factor among Bermudian boys, Dr Heatley told the Bermuda Sun: “It’s too early to tell. Three weeks along, we’ve only been able to sit down and go through the data at a couple of schools. We’re having conversations but they are superficial right now, but we definitely intend to get to the bottom of it.”

He added: “In reference to the three boys (S4 Cohort results), we’re very excited for our young ladies but probably need to investigate what we’ve got to do for our young men — and we will do that.”

The commissioner said he was personally trying to speak to as many young people as possible to gauge how the school system was perceived and where it was ‘at’.  He is taking an informal approach in addition to speaking to children in the classrooms: “Children are honest,” he said. “If you want to know what’s working or not for a child, just ask them,” he said.

‘Children are our report card’

“Beyond campus I walk through town, meeting them along the way. I just take a walk out to talk to them, and ask them, ‘What can we do to help you?’ But the feedback I’ve had has been very positive. Students in Bermuda are very excited to be back (at school) and they love their teachers. I’ve also had the opportunity to speak to high school graduates, and have invited some of them back to talk to us (the Ministry of Education), to see if we can make any improvements.  The children — they are our report card.”

After announcing the academic year results yesterday, Mr Brangman told the Bermuda Sun: “In raising the standards we are bringing to correction the system that has arguably been in disarray for a long time, and it has many challenges.

“It’s not a simple fix but we are going to fix it. Student achievement is the first priority for the community because the future of our country is dependent on the development of our human capital — otherwise we will be forever hearing complaints about guest workers!”