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National discussion on CSEC performance long overdue

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A few years ago, after some disappointing national CSEC results in mathematics and English A, the Ministry of Education promised a national discussion on the performance of Vincentian students in these two subject areas.

That was 2012, and at a press conference, the Ministry asked the public to give them time to gather together information to do with teaching, learning and student performance that was factual and had come from a variety of sources.{{more}}

As far as we are aware, a formal national discussion never took place, but education insiders say that the Ministry did convene a series of “subject meetings” among teachers of different subject areas in an effort to increase the confidence, competence and morale of those teachers who were not achieving the desired levels of success.

The results that caused alarm in 2012 were the 27.9 per cent pass rate for mathematics and a 49.97 per cent success rate for English A in the May/June CSEC examinations.

The CSEC results for 2016 were released just over two weeks ago and overall, Vincentian students achieved a 75 per cent pass rate, the same as in 2015. The Ministry also provided overall pass rates for schools achieving pass rates of 60 per cent and over, but we are yet to hear about the performance of the other schools, as well as the performance of our students in individual subject areas.

SEARCHLIGHT, however, understands that nationally, our students’ performance in mathematics and English A have improved significantly from 2012. This year, 47.35 passed mathematics, compared with 27.9 percent in 2012, while 72.83 passed English A in comparison with 49.97 four years ago.

Not being privy to the results from 2013, 2014 and 2015, we do not know if the results in these subject areas have been trending upwards, if this is an usual spike or even if we have had even better in any of those intervening years. Whatever the case, we congratulate the Ministry of Education, our schools, teachers and students on the improvement this year, compared with 2012. It is not enough, however.

Mathematics and English A are core subjects and even if a student has passed 12 other subjects, without passes in English A and mathematics, he or she may be unable to matriculate to higher education or even be eligible for many entry level jobs. More effort needs to be put into lifting those pass rates, especially in mathematics, which has been proving problematic for students here and around the region for decades.

The efforts of the Ministry and the schools seem to be bearing fruit, but clearly, we are not yet at our goal. What are some of the other factors that need to be taken into consideration if we are to ensure that our students perform at an optimal level?

In 2007, when only 25 per cent of the students who wrote mathematics at CSEC were successful, there was a similar outcry about the results and the Prime Minister alluded to the need to find incentives to attract and keep good science and mathematics teachers in the system. There is merit in the suggestion that we may not be attracting and retaining the brightest and best to the teaching profession; perhaps compensation and other incentives need to be looked at.

Whatever the case, the Government and the Ministry of Education do not have all the answers relating to our students educational performance. That promised national discussion on our results is long overdue. Additionally, the national statistics on our students’ performance over the years should not be a State secret; they should be made available on the Government website to inform and facilitate national discussion and action.

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