Education minister says students will graduate

Students comprising the Class of 2020 who have made the requirements to graduate will graduate, according to Minister of Education Jeffrey Lloyd.

“Yes, graduation will in fact occur. I can’t say when. That is to be decided,” said Lloyd.

When face-to face, in-classroom learning was suspended a month ago in an effort to contain the spread of the global COVID-19 pandemic, he said more than two-thirds of the school year had been completed. The question, he said, is what part of a student’s overall grade will the third term be, knowing that the student is in a virtual space.

Twelfth grade students, he said, are basically reviewing in their three-year Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE) coursework.

“You’re only reviewing and revising. You’re not essentially doing any hardcore instruction, so the calculation is now being considered as to what part of that grade will be considered by virtual school. What part of the overall grade will the third term be, knowing that the student is now in a virtual space?”

While graduation and grade level promotions for students that make the requirements will take place, the education minister said it is unlikely that there will be graduation ceremonies.

And whether the end of the school year comes at the usual time in the middle of June or earlier, the education minister said it’s hard for him to say at this time, “because the virus has not told us so”.

“We’re still in the throes of what we call the surge. There are still of course many cases that are coming up. Every single day people are being hospitalized…people are being quarantined – whether in their homes or otherwise. When we start to see what the health authorities consider a plateau, or a reduction, or downward slide in these numbers, then there will be some consideration as to how we resume what you may consider the normal operations of school,” Lloyd told The Nassau Guardian on Wednesday.

He said students should expect to have end-of-term exams, and sit national exams – BGCSE, Bahamas Junior Certificate (BJC) and Grade Level Assessment Test (GLAT) – but that they still don’t know when that will happen.

Institutions of learning were closed to physical face-to-face instruction since March 16 after the first case of the global pandemic COVID-19 was confirmed in The Bahamas.

In-country there are now 54 confirmed coronavirus cases with nine deaths and 895 people in quarantine. The global pandemic has infected 2,138,763 people and caused 142,735 deaths as of Thursday, April 16.

Lloyd has said schools will not reopen until Prime Minister Hubert Minnis gives the order to do so.

In the meantime he said school continues as usual, albeit in a virtual space, and adjustments will be made accordingly.

“A lot of people figure, ‘I’m not actually in the physical building, so school is out,’ – no, that’s not the case; school continues.”

Even though students are virtually learning, he said teachers continue to take a daily register, and know who is working and what work is being handed in.

The education minister said 34,000 students have registered on the education ministry’s virtual learning platform. And that between 4,000 and 5,000 of them are private school students.

Going forward, Lloyd said what people consider “normal” for school may look different from June 1. He said online learning is never going away, and is here to stay in the delivery of education.

“It’s even more important for us to master this right now because we are in the hurricane belt and at any time, a hurricane ‘walking’ through here like a Dorian could knock out this island, that island, like they knocked out Ragged Island, like they knocked out Abaco, Grand Bahama; or impact our country in such a way that we have no choice but to utilize the virtual classroom,” he said.

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