Minister of Education and Technical and Vocational Training the Hon. Glenys Hanna-Martin said the recent lockdowns and shutdowns in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic have had multiple negative effects on education.
“Indeed, it has been noted that no sector has been more severely affected than the education sector,” the Minister said at a press conference on Tuesday, January 17, 2023 announcing that the Ministry will be undertaking assessments on children at public schools throughout the country to evaluate the extent of the learning loss caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“A tremendous body of research has been conducted globally and regionally and there is unanimity in the findings that millions of children worldwide are suffering from learning loss.
Minister Hanna-Martin explained that learning loss according to the World Bank refers to any specific or general loss of knowledge and skills or to reversals in academic progress, most commonly due to extended gaps”.
She also noted that a World Bank report published in June 2022 shows that “prolonged school closures, poor mitigation effectiveness, and household-income shocks had the biggest impact on learning poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), with a predicted 80 per cent of children at the end-of-primary-school-age now unable to understand a simple written text, up from around 50 per cent pre-pandemic”.
The Minister said, “It is incumbent upon us in The Bahamas to measure the impact of COVID-19 which will give us real data as to the extent of learning loss so as to allow us to craft interventions to help our children catch up. The report shows that even before COVID-19 there was a learning crisis; COVID-19 exacerbated this crisis to huge proportions.”
She said the World Bank reported to avoid a permanent impact on the human capital accumulation of this generation, countries need to focus on reversing those losses and accelerating learning.
Minister Hanna-Martin said as a demonstration of data driven research, the Ministry commissioned a survey with the Department of Statistics to ascertain the reasons why thousands of children did not sign on to virtual learning and this data has given much insight into an array of issues.
She said another exercise that was undertaken nationwide involved public and private teams dispatched into communities to compile first-hand data on children not attending school.
“The deployment of attendance officers followed this initiative, to procure the attendances of students. Due to these combined efforts, we have been able to achieve an unprecedented school attendance rate of 94 per cent.
“Further, we commissioned a research project with the University of The Bahamas to identify factors which influence learning outcomes to our school population. This research will assist the Ministry in shaping policy and creating targeted interventions.”
Dominique McCartney-Russell, Acting Director said the Ministry has hired a consultant firm to undertake a diagnostic assessment of the learning loss that has occurred in the country and to provide recommendations for accelerating learning recovery.
After a bidding process, Renaissance Learning Inc. was the winning firm based on several criteria. These include:
• The company should have had at least a minimum of three years of successful consultancy in the education sector with the expertise required to satisfactorily complete the assignment.
• They should have successful experience in at least three assignments of similar value and complexity in diagnostic assessment, remediation and acceleration in a school system.
• They should also have experience in providing services to school systems with a student population of more than 35,000 children from grades K to 12.
The Acting Director said, “We looked at qualifications experience, methodologies, work plans, organization and staffing, subject matter expertise and overall competence for this assignment.”
She added, “The mandate of this consultancy includes diagnostic assessment, the remediation and the salvation of learning recovery for students in K to 12 in the public school sector.”
Renaissance Learning Inc. has worldwide impact and operations in countries including the United States, Canada, China, Australia, the United Kingdom and the Caribbean.
According to Renaissance Learning Inc. website, since 1986, its mission has been to accelerate learning for all children and adults of all ability levels and ethnic and social backgrounds, worldwide. Today, more than 40 per cent of US schools rely on Renaissance solutions for data and insights to equitably move learning forward.