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Back to school

Published: Sep 02, 2013

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The names of many of our public schools pay tribute to master teachers whose contributions to national development were extraordinary and critical.

As thousands of students return to school today they should be reminded of those contributions by educators such as Mabel Walker, L.N. Coakley, N.G.M. Major, Naomi Blatch, T.G. Glover, C.V. Bethel and others.

Today’s teachers should draw inspiration from yesterday’s masters. Indeed, there remain many fine teachers and administrators in our public schools. We salute them as well as dedicated professionals in the Ministry of Education.

There should be no illusions about the difficulties teachers face in terms of student indiscipline in terms of work ethic and poor behavior. Add to this, a lack of parental support for teachers, and one gets a sense of what teachers face on a daily basis.

Within this context, we have high praise for those parents who are committed to improving public education through involvement in school boards, parent-­teacher associations and other areas.

Noteworthy are collaborations between teachers and parents, particularly community outreach programs geared towards boosting parental involvement.

There are clear improvements in public education. Still, there is much work to be done. That work will have to be done by students hungry to learn and grow. But, that work also requires greater efforts and collaboration by parents and educators.

The title of headmaster or headmistress was often synonymous with head teacher. And, for good reason.

The idea was that the leader or principal of a school was not singularly a manager or administrator. One of the head’s defining roles was to ensure the quality of teaching and instruction.

It is a role which should be stressed with equal measure to that of effective administration of our public schools. This will require that principals have other administrators and support staff assisting them in school administration.

More principals need to spend more time in classrooms rigorously observing teacher performance. The system for mentoring new teachers as well as teachers needing improvement will have to be reviewed and improved in various public schools.

We also renew our call for more effective teacher evaluation. This includes more vigorous assessment measures which truly gauge subject proficiency, teaching methods and student performance relative to the quality of teaching.

We look forward to various improvements in the upcoming school year.

Parents and guardians must also play a role.

Many parents are focused on purchasing items for their children to go back to school. It is admirable that so many are concerned enough to ensure that their children are properly dressed and have the hardware necessary for learning. However, bags, pens and pencils, and shirts and pants are not enough to ensure children leave school prepared for the job market and prepared to be reasonable citizens in our society.

Our students have not been doing well in national exams for years. The poor results don’t even shock us anymore. The average grade hovers around a D in the Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE) exams.

For children to succeed, parents, guardians and family members must take active roles in their education.

Parents must set standards of acceptable behavior both physically and academically so their children know there is an aspiration for them greater than mediocrity and failure.

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