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21st August

BUT Head Speaks Out On BGCSE Exam Grades

By Kendea Jones President of Bahamas Union of Teachers [BUT] Ida Poitier-Turnquest said Monday that there is little education officials can do to improve the national average of the Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary Education [BGCSE] exams.

The preliminary results of the 2007 BGCSE results re-ignited the national debate about the issue. The information showed that nearly 60 percent of the BGCSE grades awarded were either a "D" or below. Only 788 candidates ­ roughly 12 percent of all BGCSE exam-takers ­ received at least grade `C' in five or more subjects. President of the Bahamas Union of Teachers Ida Poitier Turnquest said as long as the public continues to compare GCE and BGCSE results, there will always be a lament about how poorly students are performing in national examinations. (Journal file photo) BGCSE grades fell in the `D' ­ `U' category. A `D' grade denotes a fairly good grasp of the subject; `E' is a moderate grasp; `F' a limited understanding and `G' a very limited understanding of the subject matter, according to the report. Mrs. Poitier-Turnquest predicted the national average would not change because the BGCSE exam is currently under a seven-point system. "From time to this very day, teachers have used the letters A, B, C, D and F grading the work of their students where A is excellent; B is very good; C is good; D is poor and F is a fail," she explained. "The leaders of today grew up with the General Certificate of Education [GCE] exams which was graded on a five point scale, where the average was a "C". For The Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary [Education] we use a seven-point scale, the average of which is a "D". "As long as we continue to compare the two, we will always be lamenting how badly our students are doing on the national exams." A cumulative percentage of the BGCSE results indicates that 42.39 percent of all grades awarded were in the `A' ­ `C' category with more than a quarter of all grades awarded given at grade `C.' Approximately 57.6 percent of the

Former President of the Bahamas Christian Council and Senior Pastor at New Covenant Baptist Church Bishop Simeon Hall laid the blame squarely at the feet of officials at the Ministry of Education, Youth Sports and Culture. He said top officials at the ministry obviously lack the creativity commensurate with the high salaries they are being paid. The head of the Coalition for Education Reform J. Barrie Farrington said the national average exclusively for public schools in the 2007 BGCSE exams is actually an `E' when measured on a 4.0 system. The coalition has maintained all along that there is an educational crisis with many entrants into the labour market lacking critical functional literacy skills. According to Mr. Farrington, the deficiency is especially grave in English and mathematics. Minister of Education Carl Bethel said recently that the government would use more educational scholarships as incentives for students to achieve higher grades in the national examinations. Mrs. Poitier-Turnquest said while adding more scholarships is a good thing, the government needs to look at the larger issues involved. "When you look at education, you cannot look in a vacuum because you have to see where children come from, how many students that are in a class, the resources that are available and what is happening on the given day of the exam," she said. She added that while many persons compare private and public schools, this is like comparing apples and oranges. "In the private schools, students are selected to go into that school," said the BUT head. "For example, if you take an exam for St. Augustine's, only the top 200 are selected. If you go to a public school no matter where you come from, the government is mandated to provide an education for you, so you cannot compare the two." She said core exams like English and math also contribute to the outcome of national examinations. "With the core examinations, everyone in the public schools is expected to take mathematics and English, whereas in the private schools if you don't take it, you will just go on to the upper level exams and so it is a basic exam," she said. Ministry of Education officials are counting on the School Quality Assurance programme to enhance the processes, procedures and resources required to improve the quality of the students' learning and their performance.

The government has allocated $3.4 million for the programme. Although Mrs. Poitier-Turnquest endorsed the programme, she said the entire curriculum needs to be reevaluated. "The basis of education is the curriculum and we can put many things in place, but if the curriculum is not meeting the needs of our children, meeting the needs of our country, nothing will happen," she said. "We are hoping by 2015 that there will be free, quality education for all persons from the cradle to the grave."

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