• 06 Oct, 2022

Rural schools disadvantaged, equity in resources necessary for high performance for all students & regions

Rural schools disadvantaged, equity in resources necessary for high performance for all students & regions

Rural schools disadvantaged, equity in resources necessary for high performance for all students & regions

While 10,368 students wrote the CSEC exams, and 671 students wrote the CAPE, our Ministry of Education has done its annual celebration of a tiny percentage of academically and intellectually gifted students who have done expectedly well at the CSEC and CAPE exams. These “gifted and talented” students (as we would call them in the USA) attributed success to the help of extra lessons and  “a lot of off-timetable subjects.” While the national average of CSEC written is 6 subjects per student, the Ministry focused on 28 “cream of the crop” students who wrote 14-27 subjects, and secured grades ones and twos. In the 2022 CSEC, only 213 of the 10,368 students secured Grade Ones in 8 or more subjects. These high-scoring students make us proud. Apparently, this tiny group was able to secure help outside of the school to do additional subjects not within the school’s time-table. These are the students who do well not “because of” our educational design but  “in spite of” conditions at their schools. Trinidad said they will not do their usual celebrations this year but Guyana said it would continue to do its “dog and pony” show. The idea is that the “halo effect” will make it seem as if the handful of good results is representative of the overall progress. The truth is that some of the 10,368 students probably were in mourning because of unsatisfactory performance, including failing math and/or English. The Ministry was careful not to give statistics on the number of students passing 5 or more subjects by region. We have not yet seen disaggregation of results by schools and regions. These statistics are important as they give an idea of how many of the 10,368 students meet basic requirements for employment or tertiary education. The school and regional comparisons will help us identify the educational inequities and can lead to direct data-based interventions. Maybe the Education Department at UG will do some data analysis for us.

Only  213 students of the 10,368 students who wrote the exams  secured eight or more grade ones at the CSEC examinations. “ Schools from Regions One, Seven, Eight and Nine failed to make the cut of students attaining more than eight grade ones.” Why? This is simply unacceptable. The overall pass rate at the general and technical proficiencies for grades 1 to 3 in CSEC was 68.5%, which means the failure rate was 31.5%. This is not good. The major problem of our educational system is that it is inherently unequal and inequitable, and designed to produce failures. Too many gaps exist across the system after 33 years of the PNC and 25 years of the PPP. There are two Guyanas in education services - better off, fairly resourced, urban schools that get preferential treatment from the Ministry, and struggling, under-resourced, rural schools in areas that tend to vote PPP. 

A measure of curriculum quality is “academic rigour.” Of 116 Secondary Schools in Guyana, only 12 schools (10%) offer the CAPE programs which is a level higher than CSEC. A school that has both CSEC and CAPE will have a more rigorous curriculum and better teacher quality than a school with CSEC only. Only 671 students wrote CAPE in 2022, compared to 723 candidates in 2021, a drop of 8% taking the exams.  Ninety percent of our secondary schools and most of our regions do not offer CAPE. Nine schools offer 20-26 CAPE subjects, except Anna Regina Sec. with 9 CAPE subjects, West Demerara Sec. with 12 subjects, and St. Joseph’s with 17. Why does Anna Regina have only 9 subjects compared to the Georgetown schools with an average of 23 subjects? Same question for West Dem. Sec. We must end these inequities now. There appears to be no accelerated plan to deal with equity in education. Instead of boosting up high schools across the country outside of Region 4, the Ministry is adding a new  $103 million annex  building to Queens College and a  $95.4 million building at Bishops High While this might be a nice thing, it does not solve the equity problem; it perpetuates the inequ ities. How about better buildings at Corentyne High (Chandisingh School), Winifred Gaskin Sec. at Manchester, Skeldon High, Tagore Memorial High, Black Bush, Bush Lot, Leguan, Wakenaam, Leonora High, Stewartville High, Zeeburg, West Demerara Secondary, and in the interior regions, etc.? Where is the Ministry’s Equity Plan? How long should we wait for the Ministry to lay out its plan?

 

Recently, the Ministry initiated specialist math training for Region 4 teachers only, although there is a state of emergency in math across the nation. Sixty-four percent of students are failing math and this has implications for STEM education and capacity building for the emerging technical needs of the oil industry. The other regions have to wait for the math trickle down from Region 4. This perpetuates the old inequitable system. We need educational reform thinking at the Ministry. What will they do with the $US40 million loan they got? Will we see tangible things for all that money? Will this address the inequities including Internet access and smart classrooms in all schools in the rural areas? Can we use e-learning to begin to address the lack of breadth in the curriculum available only to most of the Region 4 schools? The Opposition must ask questions in Parliament about how this borrowed US$40 million will be spent. This is not free money. We must see dramatic changes resulting from the use of these funds.

Also, 29% failed English.  Another statistic of concern is the gender pass rate where only 34% of males are passing, while 66% of females are passing. The data shows that our Ministry must frame its work around educational equity and any Equity Plan must be on steroids. Going forward, all regions must make simultaneous progress. No student or school must be left behind!

 

Sincerely,

Dr. Jerry Jailall