“These are exciting times for our education system as we forge ahead with the plans to provide our children a system that is created by Bermudians and for Bermudians. A system that is culturally relevant, promotes self-awareness and critical thinking and prepares our children to lead locally and contribute globally.”

This from newly elected Progressive Labour Party MP Jason Wade, one of the keynote speakers at the party’s 55th Annual General Conference on Wednesday (Jan 27).

Highlights of MP Wade’s full speech:

When the PLP was elected in 2017, our platform stated that we were committed to putting our Children and their Future first. Wholescale Education Reform is well underway to ensure a 21st Century learning environment for our children is in train.

Currently we have the following underway:

  • 1 Parish Primary School proposal consultation – I encourage all members to sign up for the very interactive sessions that will be taking place over the next 4 weeks. We want to hear from you about these proposals.
  • 2 Learning First – The program that is examining how that is currently looking at how we go about collaboratively designing an improved school system for Bermuda. A school system where each and every learner in Bermuda, regardless of where they live or how they learn is able to access learning.
  • 3 Education Authority – Following with the recommendation of the Bermuda First report on Education, the government has committed to developing an Education Authority. The remit of the Authority is to be responsible for the Performance management of our schools and personal within the system to ensure a learning system that facilitates optimum success.
  • 4 Phasing out of Middle Schools – As promised, the legislation to phase out middle schools and introduce a two-tier system of Primary and Senior or Signature Schools is currently being drafted.

While it is clear that strides are being made in our Education Reform, I want to highlight some other work that has been going on in the background. Work that has directly and indirectly help to close the two Bermudas gap that exists. The PLP believes that anyone who wishes to improve themselves through education should be given the opportunity to do so. Money should not be the major difference between able to gain a certification or degree or not.

To this end, there have been several programs put in place since 2017 have assisted our fellow Bermudians to pursue their educational goals. We have seen the number of Bermudians able to pursue their dreams rise in the last few years as we provide avenues for them to reach higher heights.

Since 2017, the Bermuda College has been given $300,000 per year specifically for financial aid. This annual grant, now in it’s 4th year, has seen over 870 students benefit from this grant. In fact, enrolment at the Bermuda College has risen from 926 students in 2016 to just over 1700 in 2020. A testament to the various program put in place to ensure our people have access to the services they want.

Another program I want to highlight is our new College Promise program hat started in 2018. Far too often we hear negativity around our students graduating from CedarBridge and Berkeley despite the many good things happening with them. The College Promise Program was introduced to reward those students went to school and did their work. Any public high school student that graduates with a 3.0 GPA or better, can attend the Bermuda College tuition free to obtain their Associate Degree. This program presents huge advantages for our people.

The Bermuda College is not only accredited by the New England Commission for Higher Learning, the same accrediting body for all schools in the Northern-Eastern park of the United States, but they have over 20 articulation agreements with overseas institutions.

To break this down, any student graduating from the Bermuda Public School System with the appropriate GPA, can now do their first 2 years of college for free and transfer into the 3rd year of a program in 100s of overseas institutions. Imagine how much money you can save by not having to pay for the first 2 years of university? Now in its 2nd year, there are currently 70 students attending the Bermuda college under this program.

The Ministry of Education continues to look at the money is issues out for Scholarships and Awards and ways to make those dollars stretch even further. The recent creation of smaller wards such as the Bermuda College Book Awards to help students to by books are but one of the many ways we are looking to be creative in ways to assist. Currently under review is a program designed to help professionals who may want to enter into the teacher career, a means to pay for the required 9-month certification program.

Our Convention theme “We’re all in this Together” is apt for these types of program and for what we are going through today. By being creative and innovative, we have been able to help many more people that before. All done without necessarily having to find more funding. Thinking smarter and being more proactive, we have been able to help 100s of our Bermudians in their quest to better themselves.

Later you will hear a testimony from one of Bermuda’s shining stars. A star who is a product of public education and has been supported by the Ministry of Education’s various Scholarships and Awards to help achieve her goals. She is a example of how thinking outside the box can help us help each other as truly “We’re All in this Together”.