Dr. Grant Gibbons, Shadow Education Minister. *File photo
Dr. Grant Gibbons, Shadow Education Minister. *File photo

MONDAY, DEC. 3: The information Education Minister Dame Jennifer released on high school graduation rates and examination results is inadequate.

Based on this limited and selective data, it is impossible to properly assess the academic progress schools and students should be making as part of education reform.

Parents and taxpayers who are supporting the public education system with their hard-earned dollars must have reliable and consistent information about educational performance.

Given the critical importance of education to our students’ and Bermuda’s future, the community has a right to know what is going on. Yet this Government and the eight education ministers since 1998 have consistently failed to release consistent and reliable data.

This is why an OBA Government will move with urgency to implement an Independent Standards Board – the education equivalent of the Auditor General – to provide independent and objective reports on school performance, graduation rates and external exam results to parents and the public.

In March 2010, the Ministry pledged in its Blueprint for Education Reform to “facilitate the improvement of standards via accountability and transparency.” Specifically, they promised to “Publish annually school performance data to all stakeholders.”

The Government has not kept this promise.

In fact, the Minister’s report on exam results was only 4 pages this year compared to the 16-page report released last year.

This selective and limited information raises questions about what is being withheld. The blatant lack of transparency does nothing to restore confidence in our public education system.

The dramatic decline in GCSE results suggests that education reform under this Government is simply not progressing. In 2011, 54 percent of students sitting the exams received a grade of C or higher. This year, just 28 percent did. It should be improving, not getting worse.

These overall results raise serious questions about whether our BSC-based graduation standards are meaningful. The OBA believes it is past time to have a serious discussion about implementing an internationally recognized national education standard for graduation. We need to raise the bar, not lower it, to ensure that Bermuda’s students will be properly prepared for either college or the Bermudian job market that awaits them after graduation.