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The Education Statistics — what do they mean?

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Tue Mar 03, 2015

The Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines cannot be faulted for the priority it gives to the education sector.

As at September 2014, recurrent expenditure for the sector for 2014 amounted to $76.9 million or 20.3 per cent of total recurrent expenditure. Capital expenditure too, as at September 2014 was nothing to sneeze at, amounting to approximately $3.5 million.{{more}} The amount allocated in 2014 was not an anomaly, for over the years, a similar portion of the budget has been budgeted. For the 2011/2012 academic period, these figures put us out front in terms of expenditure on education as a percentage of its GDP, for member states of the Organization of East Caribbean States (OECS).

The investment the government has made in the education sector is reflected in the many schools that have undergone vast upgrades; this country having the highest percentage of trained teachers in the secondary schools in the OECS; the second highest level of trained teachers in the primary schools; a low pupil to teacher ratio in both our primary and secondary schools; universal access to secondary schools; government run pre-schools in several communities; an increase in the number of scholarships on offer to universities around the world and social safety net programmes such as school feeding programmes and the book loan scheme.

It is therefore a bit unsettling to observe that for one year at least — the 2011/2012 academic year — the outputs from our education system lagged behind those of the other countries in the OECS, according to statistics published in the OECS Education Statistical Digest 2012/13.

The OECS and the ministries of education in the sub-region must be commended for their efforts at data collection and taking the decision to publish the data. This trend must continue, perhaps with enhancements (such as narratives to accompany the data) going forward, for no proper analysis of any system can be made without data, and without analysis and review, there can be no strategic management and advancement of any system.

A definitive judgement on the performance of our education system cannot be made based on one year’s statistics, but the 2011/2012 figures are surprising and a cause for concern. They should prompt us to look more closely at our outputs to see where we have fallen short and what can be done to improve our students’ performance.

It is time for us all — the Ministry of Education, the teachers’ union, our schools, principals, teachers, parents, parent teacher associations, communities and the students themselves — to look inward and question where we may be going wrong. A child’s performance in school is dependent on several factors, many of which are outside the control of the school or the Ministry of Education. This is why a proper study of the situation, encompassing all stakeholders, must be done to ascertain our true standing and to chart the way forward.

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