Despite the closure of schools in The Bahamas due to the Corona virus pandemic, the Minister of Education, the Hon. Jeffrey Lloyd, underscored that the educational system has performed an “admirable” job in ensuring that students continue to receive vital instruction.
While it does not replace face-to-face instruction in this situation, Minister Lloyd said it is difficult to argue that it wasn’t or isn’t a very “acceptable” alternative.
In the midst of social media buzz regarding the announced start of national examinations, Minister Lloyd has confirmed that the Bahamas Junior Certificate (BJC) and Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE) examinations will be carried out beginning July 13, 2020.
Minister Lloyd addressed a virtual press conference Monday morning, June 8, 2020 that was attended by MOE officials including Lorraine Armbrister, Permanent Secretary; Marcellus Taylor, Director; Julian Anderson, Deputy Director; and Seretha Clarke Undersecretary.
The Minister said: “It had always been the intention of the Ministry to conduct external exams if conditions permitted. This is why it was repeatedly stated that the exams were postponed, not cancelled. We stated this from the beginning of the national lockdown. Students were advised the lockdown didn’t mean a vacation from school. Public Service Announcements (PSAs) and other media announcements made this plain and clear.”
Minister Lloyd pointed out: “The decision to hold exams was not an easy one. We realize that these are unprecedented times, as has often been stated. There is and has been a lot of anxiety, disruption, stress and other disturbing variances introduced into the psyche of the Bahamian student and his family by the Virus that has nearly shut down the entire globe.”
Minister Lloyd asserted that students have been prepared for examinations.
“They [the students] would be responding to the instructions by the submission of assignments and taking of tests as if they were meeting face-to-face. In our estimation, there has been no deprivation suffered by virtue of a virtual environment in this educational circumstance.
“If you are talking about students who would not have had a device or internet that’s one thing, we accept that, we understand that, we feel that certain of those students would have been at some disadvantage, but it’s quite a stretch in my mind reasonably that you could suggest to me that the student who had the opportunity for use of internet, a device and is engaging a live teacher by way of a television screen or device screen, which in this generation we are very comfortable, that that would be a deprivation to those students, from an educational stand point, in my mind is unacceptable.”
He suggested the possibility of students missing the camaraderie of a classroom environment or touchy/ feely engagement in an ordinary school environment, but would not have been deprived of the benefit of instruction, knowledge and information.
Director Taylor confirmed that curriculum officers led teams of teachers who were some of the best, competent and very capable.
“In a regular classroom just one teacher prepares the lesson, now we have a whole team led by the curriculum officer, who has responsibility for development of the curriculum. I would argue that this is at a much higher level than what students would ordinarily get,” stated Mr. Taylor.
He described the virtual learning platform as a “bonus.” In 2019, students did not have a virtual learning platform but text and exercise books.
“Ordinarily students would study with their textbooks and exercise books. We are confident that if a student was focused and conscientious they actually had an enrichment to what they would normally have in terms of preparation,” said the Director.
Undersecretary Clarke said students who will not be writing examinations this year are required to inform their schools and the Examination and Assessment Division of the MOE. A request can be made for their sitting of the examinations to be deferred to 2021. “If that is done we will honor them. If you do not attend that means you are absent for the exam,” said Ms. Clarke.
The following factors that were considered regarding the decision to hold examinations:
1. Exams are VOLUNTARY. No One is COMPELLED to take the Exams. Also, there are a number of 12th grade students who await the chance to obtain their Graduation Diploma by making up missing exams they need.
International Universities use the BGCSE Exam Results to determine eligibility.
The University of The Bahamas is permitting students to enter this year on the basis of their last three years of high school; they still must pass a placement exam to gain entrance.
2. There are many students who if they do not take the exams this year, will never take them. Also, there are some schools where students only take the National Exams in Grade 12. If they miss it this year, it is unlikely that they would return next year to take them.
3. A majority of Bahamian students who leave grade 12 do not go to college. They go to work. For them, the credentials of an external exam is vital. So they would need these exams to enter the workforce. Five or ten years from now, no one may care or remember that we had COVID in 2019. Then, how will these individuals stack up against their juniors and seniors?
4. Students’ last day of face-to-face instruction was March 13, 2020. The Oral Comprehension, which is usually the first exam, would have started in April. This indicates that students would have lost only a few weeks of instruction. During this time (March 13 – Oral Comprehension) no new information is taught. This is a time for review.
5. For the students who don’t feel prepared, there will be Refresher Courses, which the Ministry will continue to provide – both face-to-face, and through the Virtual school. Students can avail themselves of any or all of it. If they don’t have internet or a device, they can use devices in the Computer Labs at their school or any other school. Call to put their names down. They are free to use them.
Written By Kathryn Campbell, BIS
Bahamas Information Services
June 8th, 2020