Dr. Gibbons: School Numbers Decline

December 13, 2011

[Updated] Shadow Education Minister Dr. Grant Gibbons spoke on the recent Census results, which show that since 2000 there has a been a 24% decline in public school enrollment, while private school enrollment has increased 14%.

In 2000 there were 9,211 students in total – 5,752 in public school and 3,459 in private school, while in 2010 there were 8,725 students in total – 4,383 in public school and 3,938 in private school.

The Census Report said, “In 2000, the Census collected data for the first time on whether the educational institution attended was public or private. The Census 2010 data now allows for comparisons of non-tertiary schooling selected in Bermuda.

“There was a 5% decline in the total number of children enrolled in primary, middle and secondary education over the intercensal period, with primary school children representing the largest decline at 14%.”

“This is a result of decreasing birth rates during this period. There was a sharp decline in public school enrollment of 24% since 2000 and an increase of 14% in private school enrollment over the same period.”

Chart taken from the Census Report below, click to enlarge to full size:

“Increase in private school enrollment was significant at the senior school level when in 2010 there were 1,434 persons enrolled at that level compared with 1,060 in 2000, an increase of 35% during the intercensal period. This was followed by a 21 % increase in private school enrollment at the middle school level.”

Shadow Education Minister Dr Grant Gibbons said, “I think we all recognize, that certainly over the last five years, there has been quite a drop in the numbers of students enrolling in the public school system.  I think the surprise from the census numbers was the degree to which they differed from the numbers the Ministry is reporting.”

“My own sense, just talking to parents and others, is that parents are clearly concerned in Bermuda with getting the best education they can for their children. And there have obviously been a lot of concerns about the public system over the years. That is not to say some students are not doing very well…

“It’s not just parents who are concerned, Professor Hopkins clearly set out that the public education system has some severe problems. This was the Government’s own report in 2007.”

“It’s not just a question of celebrating the children who are doing well, it’s got to be working for all children,” said Dr. Gibbons.

“We are spending alot of money, it’s over $20,000 a year per child in the public system. We should be able to make it work, we have to got to get on with these reforms, and it has taken too long.”

The Ministry of Education has not responded to our request yesterday for comment, however we will update if able.

Update 5.34pm: Minister if Education Dame Jennifer Smith responded this evening saying, “In his rush to once again speak negative about public education, Opposition Shadow Education Minister, Dr. Grant Gibbons, failed to note that the Census Report has a one page technical note to data users on page 2. The last paragraph of this technical note advises users to consider the imputation when interpreting the final results of the Census.

“It is obvious that the Opposition did not take the technical note into consideration. If they had questioned the Census Department regarding the “low” school enrollment figure in comparison with the budgeted figure, they would not have had any reason to make a statement to the press. The undercount would have been clearly explained for this particular table on student enrolment.

“As relates to the enrolment numbers set out in the 2011/12 Budget Estimates for public school students, they are absolutely correct. The numbers were based on actual students in seats in public schools in September 2010 as reported to the Ministry of Education through each school, based on their registered students.

“I think that all Bermudians will admit that there are persons who prefer the private school system over the public system. However, with the implementation of an internationally recognised curriculum (Cambridge) and the ongoing efforts of Principals, Teachers and Department of Education staff, confidence in the Public School System is growing.

“At the Ministry level, our focus is on supporting schools and at the school level, the focus is clearly on teaching and learning. We believe that this continued focus will see a shift in the direction that parents move their students in the future.”

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Comments (22)

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  1. Can't Take It Anymore says:

    LMAO!!! A former UBP member talking about the education system, hilarious!!!

    • Mad Dawg says:

      Shooting the messenger again? Lame.

      • Ganja Mon says:

        This is the same UBP member that drove us 250m into this Education system. The opened middle schools, added an extra year on High schools and created the infamous Cedarbridge Acedemy sparking gang culture/ mentality forever.

        Now you want to talk about parents taking their children out of that system you created?

        There is no way to go back to the old system now and its too late!

        You should talk about how many of the UBP members took their children out the public system before 1997 !!

      • Can't Take It Anymore says:

        Nope, no messenger here. I’m shooting the horse himself mate.

    • longtail says:

      And how many Ministers of Education have we had since the PLP came into power???? It has been like a revolving door! The present Government is not committed to education and it shows in the numbers leaving the public school system…..

    • james says:

      Yeah, it’s pretty hilarious that someone cares about education in this country.

      • Can't Take It Anymore says:

        Thing is, he doesn’t care. Look to the root of where this all started and you will find Gibbons name, amoung others, right smack in the middle. I tell you what he does care about, VOTES!!!

        • Rick Rock says:

          If you’re talking about setting up Cedarbridge in 1996, Jennifer Smith’s name was right in the middle of it too.

          The point he’s making is one you completely avoid, or maybe you just are too dim to understand.

          You might want to consider for a moment that the PLP have been IN CHARGE for the past 13 years. If it they didn’t like what the system they inherited they have had plenty of time to change it.

        • Jen says:

          Best thing is, he DOES care…. His kids went to the most prestigious high school on the island…. Clearly if he didn’t care, he wouldn’t spend 20thousand a year on his daughters education.

  2. What do we do says:

    One huge problem is the way the Civil Service is set up. When demand for a service increases over the years they rightfully hire more people to meet that demand. Unfortunately, the reverse is not true. When the demand decreases the number of staff remains at the elevated level. I am not suggesting necessarily firing people or redundancies when this happens but at a minimum do not refill posts when staff leave try to reposition them within Government. Otherwise you end up in the position we are in today: too many in Education, Post Office, etc. And not enough in other areas such as Police,

  3. Kinda Lingers says:

    Since last year (Census time) at least two private schools have had to significantly downsize because there are less people entering private schools for the first time ever. Expats leaving by the hundred, and locals whose parents can no longer afford it. So these figures, alarming as they might appear for the public system, only tell part of the story. We are in deep doodoo in Bermuda.

  4. Kinda Lingers says:

    In addition, most developed countries have less than 10% in private schools – so it is truly the very rich who send their kids there. We are at 40% – what does that tell you about how bad absolutely everyone thinks our public education system is? The public schools are turning out thugs who go around shooting each other. Nothing else to say really other than the fact that females seem to do pretty well under the same situation.

    • You can't be serious says:

      No successes out of our public school system right?

    • star man says:

      “The public schools are turning out thugs who go around shooting each other.” No, it’s their ailing families who are to blame.

      Under educated children raising children… without fathers present… leading to undisciplined, latch-key kids. That’s the recipe that keeps the local gangs flourishing.

      Spurred on by documentary after documentary after documentary on cable television glorifying American gang life. That’s what sparked off the gang killings here: U.S. cable television. Which incidentally has totally Americanized our culture.

      And America ain’t the best country to emulate! All in my opinion, of course.

  5. RME says:

    The Census should also indicate how many children are being homeschooled! I hope they weren’t lumped into the private school numbers. Homeschoolers have increased significantly in 10 years. It’s not just about expats leaving the island or people transferring to private school.

  6. JT says:

    Imagine what would happen to your taxes if private schools were banned.

  7. Family Man says:

    Most interesting statistics. I think we need to form a committee to look into the possibility of creating a special task force to examine these numbers in more detail.

    I’m available at a very modest fee.

  8. Somebody's Momma says:

    Delining numbers equal smaller class sizes. Maybe a connection to the better results we are seeing in our public education system.

    Keep up the good work school teachers, we appreciate you and your dedication.

    • JT says:

      Declining numbers should also mean significantly declining budget if the census is accurate and meaningful. Improved results – if you are using the statistics presented publicly be careful.

    • RobbieM says:

      @ Somebody’s Momma – I hate to burst your bubble but I am unsure where you are seeing better results from the two senior secondary schools. Over 50% of their graduates need remedial English and over 80% need remedial Mathematics before they can even attempt a college course. These are the realities that exist and need to be seriously addressed by this Government.

  9. Love the facts says:

    It’s clear that Dame Jennifer has managed to shoot the messenger while issuing a press release that ignores the issue and says absolutely nothing. Seriously, did anyone understand that press release?

    Here’s the crux of the matter: the census figures for public school enrollment differ considerably from the Ministry of Education’s own numbers for the same time period. So, either the Ministry is inflating the numbers or the census data is inaccurate. Dame Jennifer’s press release was a masterpiece of deflection and obfuscation and never touched this discrepancy.

    The PLP’s mishandling of education for the past 13 years is inexcusable. As we approach the election, watch her carefully: as she can’t justify the poor results overall for public education, her default position is to say that Dr. Gibbons/the Opposition is too negative. That’s the spin. Over and over. Too bad she so rarely says anything of substance, and too bad for the kids that the PLP has failed at reforming public education. (But she is good at appearing in photo ops.)

  10. JT says:

    Confidence in the public school system is not growing, as stated by Ms. Smith. The PLP’s poor economy is leading people to move away from private schools because they can no longer afford them.