Minister Provides Update On Education Reform

November 10, 2023 | 0 Comments

Speaking in the House of Assembly today [Nov 10], Minister of Education Diallo Rabain provided an update on education reform.

The Minister’s full statement follows below:

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to provide this House and the listening public with an update on Education Reform.

Mr. Speaker, Honourable members would have heard in the Speech from the Throne that this Government remains steadfastly committed to Education Reform. It should come as no surprise that the opening remarks of the Throne Speech, the very first statements, were focused on Education Reform. I would like to use a statement from the Speech delivered by Her Excellency The Governor to remind honourable members and the listening public of the critical role Education Reform plays in ensuring our country makes genuine progress. Her Excellency stated, and I quote, “It takes time to deliver and get right, but the Government maintains that education reform is vital for the growth and development of our community. Education is the foundation of any society’s success.”

Mr. Speaker, while that might be our future, an education system that can provide our students with the tools necessary to thrive and succeed in their own country and in the global economy that our island home is very much a part of, let me start by going back in time in response to some of the questions the team and I have been receiving about the latest recruitment round for School Transformation Teams.

Mr. Speaker, some of us may recall the events of May 2021 when the first round of recruitment for School Transformation Teams for CedarBridge Academy and The Berkeley Institute were gazetted. Over 90 expressions of interest were received. From those Expressions of Interest submissions, more than 60 participants were inducted and onboarded and began the rigorous work of co-designing the features of our new

Signature Schools and the curriculum and learning experiences for the four Signature Learning Programmes on offer.

Mr. Speaker, two outstanding professionals, Doctors Jamie Bacon and Alex Amat, both of the Bermuda Zoological Society, put their hands up to be part of this new way of working for our system and our country. Whilst they had both demonstrated a long-term commitment to the children and young people of Bermuda through the programmes they offered at the zoo and aquarium, they were both willing to lean into something more systemic, something that had the potential to transform outcomes specifically targeting a wider student demographic.

Mr. Speaker, over the next 14 months, these two outstanding professionals, with the support of Dr Ian Walker at BAMZ [The Bermuda Aquarium, Museum & Zoo], spent hours each week working alongside teachers, leaders, young people and the organizations that represent them, parents, and other business and community partners, painstakingly designing, testing and reimagining what high school in Bermuda really could be. I remember stopping into the cafeteria at CedarBridge Academy on a rainy Thursday evening where these teams were robustly debating whether Bermuda’s children and young people were ready to embrace these new opportunities, that they deserved nothing less, and what would happen if we didn’t redesign learning and what it would truly take to make this work come to life.

Mr. Speaker, in September 2022, the first S1 students entered these new Signature Learning Programmes at CedarBridge Academy and The Berkeley Institute. These same business and community partners welcomed the students on their first day and worked alongside their classroom teachers in their first few weeks. Their role did not end when the “curriculum was done.”It had just begun. Drs Amat, Dr. Bacon and their colleagues, Dr. Toro and Ms Holmes, have been instrumental in delivering the STEM Signature Learning Programme at CedarBridge Academy. You will find our students conducting fieldwork alongside these industry professionals and blending theory and practice now that they see how the knowledge they have gained is applied in the real world. You will see them accessing hands-on, real-world learning opportunities that enable them to develop the skills, knowledge and relationships to follow their passions, build on their talents and achieve their career and further education aspirations.

Mr. Speaker, we understand that assessing the effects of our initiatives on the educational system will require time. However, we diligently monitor improvements to ensure that they benefit the youth and the broader Bermuda community. To facilitate this, we conducted surveys with every S1 student, parents, and teachers at two critical intervals during the last academic year: after the first and second semesters. I plan to give a detailed Ministerial Statement on these findings later this year, upon the completion of the final report.

Meanwhile, I am pleased to offer some preliminary findings with honourable members and the listening public.

Mr. Speaker, after a year of implementing the initial set of Signature Learning Programmes, the data from our monitoring and evaluation efforts displays the following positive indicators:

  • Approximately 75% of students enjoy what they are studying in SLPs. Some may ask why this is important. Enjoyment matters as it leads to motivation, and motivation leads to achievement.
  • Approximately 70% of students believe Signature Learning Programme courses help them to build on their talents and capabilities. This is significant as the courses have been structured so students can have strengths-based, personalized pathways where we move away from a one-size-fits-all approach.
  • Approximately 70% of students believe Signature Learning Programme teachers and coursework challenge them to do their best. This matters as the appropriate level of challenge is one of the strongest predictors of academic performance.

Continuous monitoring and feedback, including insights from Signature School Principals, indicate that student engagement is high in Signature Learning Programme courses, as seen by a decrease in exam retakes and late assignment submissions compared to non-Signature Learning Programme courses. Furthermore, these reports suggest that academic performance is improving. This information, highlighting both strengths and areas needing development, is guiding us towards our goal of becoming an adaptive learning system that utilizes real-time feedback for ongoing enhancement.

Mr. Speaker, you might wonder why I have been telling you this story. What has this got to do with Her Excellency’s Speech from the Throne this time last week? Well, it is because, in the same time period, we released the expression of interest process for the latest round of School Transformation Team recruitment. At this time, my colleagues who sit in this place and the other place have received many questions and concerns. Questions such as:

  • “are they recruiting again because everyone they had involved has left?” or
  • “Shouldn’t this be done by now? Shouldn’t we be implementing it? or
  • Why do we need more people to get involved?”

We have even had an official press release by the OBA cosigned by the Shadow Minister of Education suggesting that the recruitment process was a backtrack on the part of the Ministry of Education and the ongoing Parish Primary School site selection rescoring process.

Mr. Speaker, we will need to recruit, induct and onboard School Transformation Teams each year until all continuing schools are transitioned. We won’t just work with those schools in the period until they open; we continue to work with them for between 3 and 5 years following. Why? Because that’s how change is sustained. That’s how we ensure we do not repeat the mistakes of the past, where new ideas become fads that come and go without ever changing the outcome or trajectories for our children.

Mr. Speaker, education Reform needs every single citizen to get involved. We need more Drs Bacon, Amat, Walker and Toro and Ms Holmes. We need more like Ms Coddington from KPMG, we need more like Mr Smith from Koom Consulting, we need more educators and leaders like DeSilva, Dublin, Richardson, Phipps, Deshields, Allen, Lowe, Fox, Caesar, Douglas, Furbert-Jacobs, Waldron [I could go on] that have been involved in these design teams from the very outset, we need more parents like Mrs Simmons-Carey who is a parent at the Berkeley Institute. We need more of Bermuda. Bermuda, We Need You.

Mr. Speaker, I will finish where I began with the quote from Her Excellency from the Throne Speech, “It takes time to deliver and get right, but the Government maintains that education reform is vital for the growth and development of our community. Education is the foundation of any society’s success.”

Let those words sink in when considering whether or not you take up the opportunity to join a School Transformation team as we take Education Reform forward in Bermuda.

Thank You Mr Speaker

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