Minister of Education, the Hon. Jeffrey Lloyd discusses plans for the upcoming National Exams during a live broadcast. The Minister announced that national exams are scheduled to commence on April 13th, 2021 and that the moratorium on international scholarships has been lifted. The event was held on Friday, March 19th, 2021 at the Sybil Blyden Centre, Stapledon School. (BIS Photos/Patrick Hanna)

Bahamians students wishing to pursue studies abroad will now be able to do so. According to Minister of Education, the Hon. Jeffrey Lloyd, students have until March 31st to apply. The Minister also discussed plans for the National exams, which are scheduled to begin on April 13th. The Minister made the statement during a live broadcast at a press conference held at Sybil Blyden Centre, Stapledon School, on March 19th, 2021. “My Ministry has lifted the moratorium on international scholarships,” he said.

“Our Bahamian students can now apply for scholarships to study internationally. Obviously, we must use all means necessary to ensure that the selection process is fair and equitable. The BGCSE results will allow us to do just that, so that our selection will reflect us having chosen the most qualified applicants to receive scholarships such as the All Bahamas Merit Scholarship to study internationally.”

The Minister said that the challenges brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic have touched every country, not only The Bahamas. Consequently, educational systems worldwide have had to make adjustments. Universities in the United States, had made some allowances — such as foregoing the need for SAT exams for the 2020 school calendar — however, he explained that all indications point to the reimplementation of those admission processes. As a result, it has become even more important for students wishing to pursue tertiary education abroad to sit national exams, in addition to required exams by other countries, namely the United Sates and Canada.

“The educational and instructional challenges we have encountered in The Bahamas, imposed by Covid19, are not unique to this country,” said Minister Lloyd. “It bears repeating that this Pandemic is a global one, disrupting every Educational system on earth. None of us alive today have ever seen anything like it. Every school system in all countries had had to forge new courses of action because of Covid, particularly when it came to their university or college admissions process.

Their answer was to make it optional for students to submit standardized test scores. In the United States of America and Canada, where the majority of our students often matriculate, it was reported that there was a significant increase in university applicants and this was attributed to the fact that popular college admissions exams such as SAT and ACT scores were not required, due to the pandemic.”

He said that naturally, without the standardized exams, universities faced an even more daunting task of identifying the best candidates to fill their spots. “At Harvard University alone, there was an increase of about 42 percent of applicants or 57,000 students applying for January 2021 intake, according to the university,” he noted.

“The upsurge in university applications resulted in delayed decisions. Some may question whether the most qualified candidates had a fair chance to gain a spot, when One considers that a major measuring yardstick — the SAT — had been omitted from many universities’ selection processes.”

Those necessary entry requirements are also being adhered to by the University of the Bahamas for 2021 admissions.

“Our own University of The Bahamas also relaxed its 2020 standard admission requirements of 5 BGCSE passes, with a ‘C’ Grade in Math and Language Arts. However, this year, and beyond, the University has now reverted to its initial position of requesting the BGCSE national exam results.

Additionally, the BGCSE examination is considered to be a uniform assessment taken by all students exiting high school in The Bahamas, and there is no guarantee that the international institutions will continue to make it optional for our students to submit them, in order to gain entry.”

The Minister said that when the Examination and Assessment Division developed the Examination Schedules/Timetables, several factors were considered including markers being able to mark the exams and subsequently provide results for students wishing to pursue tertiary education here and abroad. Additionally, having the results ready in time so that students would have sufficient time to qualify and apply for scholarships.  Other factors included giving students sufficient instructional time; and giving markers, who are practicing teachers, time to take a needed break.

The Minister said that as of Friday, March 12th, 2021, five thousand and eight seven (5087) were registered for the BGCSE Examination and nine thousand three hundred and eighty-two (9382) candidates were registered for the BJC Examination.