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Thursday, April 20, 2006 

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Too many students failing
By LISA S. KING, FN Asst. Editor

A local businessman and former educator yesterday blamed a "deficient educational system" for the national "D" average recorded by students taking The Bahamas General Certificate in Secondary Education (BGCSE) examination. Speaking at the weekly meeting of The Rotary Club of Lucaya, Calvin Kemp urged Rotarians to look at the purpose of the BGCSE and to see for themselves if it is being properly applied by education authorities.

In times past, he said, Bahamians fortunate enough to attend high school were required to sit an external examination prepared and marked by certain British universities such as Cambridge or London. The primary purpose of these examinations was to determine whether a student had matriculated or had met the academic qualifications to enter university.

Mr Kemp noted that with the assistance of at least one of these same British universities, the Ministry of Education established the BGCSE to replace these external examinations. He said it is important to know that many years ago, the British observed that only five per cent (or one in 20) of their student population would qualify for admission to university.

That small group would go on to become professionals such as doctors, lawyers and engineers, while the majority of their population - the other 19 of the 20 - would be trained to become craftsmen, tradesmen and technicians, such as carpenters, masons, plumbers, electricians and mechanics.

"If the BGCSE is in fact a replacement for the external examinations previously prepared and marked by universities such as Cambridge and London and if, as we have suggested, the primary purpose of this examination is to determine whether a student qualifies for entrance into a university, then the BGCSE may not be a proper measure, generally speaking, of our success or failure in the field of education," Mr Kemp said. "I have come to believe that, for the most part, neither the students or teachers are at fault. In fact, I believe that it is the system which has failed both the teachers and students."

Mr Kemp said in The Bahamas, high school students are forced to spend their time preparing for an exam which is designed to qualify them for admission to university.

"Then we act surprised when they fail," he said. " We should expect them to fail, especially when we realise that in Great Britain, only five per cent of their student population are allowed to even prepare for those examinations."

The other 95 per cent are too busy learning the vocational and technical skills they need to survive."

Mr Kemp said the majority of high school graduates who are fortunate enough to go on to colleges and universities abroad, usually attend institutions in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.

"I suggest to you that in the United States and Canada, the same kind of logic applies and we can be sure that even in those countries, less than 10 per cent of their young people are interested in going to college and, therefore, only that relatively small group would bother to take the SAT examinations each year," he said.

Copyright © 2006 The Nassau Guardian. All rights reserved.

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