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Government to host conversation on Math and English next term


The government of St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) is not satisfied with the performance of students in English A and Mathematics in the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate Examinations (CSEC).

In the May/June 2012 examinations, only 27.9 per cent of the students who wrote Math obtained a passing grade, while 49.97 per cent were successful in English A.

The Ministry of Education has therefore been asked to hold a conversation, early next term, on why students are performing so poorly.

That conversation, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves told SEARCHLIGHT, should involve the ministry, teachers, the teachers’ union, parents, students and other stakeholders. He said while the conversation will focus on how students did here in SVG, comparative experiences in the region will also be examined.

“It might be worthwhile to bring in one or two persons from outside, to help to facilitate the conversation,” the prime minister said.

He said he would like very much if the CXC could send a representative to be part of the discussion.

The 2012 pass rate for Mathematics in St Vincent and the Grenadines is a slight improvement over 2011, when 26.9 per cent of the students passed, but is down from 2010, when 35.70 were successful.

English A experienced a much sharper decline, with the national performance declining almost 20 per cent from the 69.96 per cent recorded in 2011. In 2010, the pass rate was 75.48 per cent.

“We need additional intervention to lift the game in those subject areas and particular in mathematics,” the prime minister said on radio on Wednesday morning.

“I want us to answer this question: How can we make sure that a student who enters primary school at five and leaves at 12 — normal student, not somebody with a learning disability, 90 per cent of the students — … Why is it that we have a significant number of the students who leave … are lacking in rudimentary reading, writing and mathematical skill, particularly mathematical skills?

“Explain that to me,” Gonsalves said.

He said that the school environment is important, but added that the teacher, the parent, and the student are “the three most important individuals in the education process.

“Now, explain to me why we are having teachers who are better trained than ever before; you have a better school environment in terms of the facilities, number of students in the class, etc., but we are not getting the quality of results that we should get.

“It is … something in the community, where the students are being diverted to go to karaoke or there is not enough discipline and they are not focused on their work?

“Is it the fault of the parents? … What are we doing in respect of the teachers? Are the teachers as productive as they should be?” said Gonsalves, a former university lecturer and father of five.
Gonsalves said most teachers are productive and that he was “grateful for the good teachers that we have.

“But, as a parent and as a prime minister and as a citizen, we have to make sure that every teacher pulls his or her weight. We have to make sure that every parent pulls his or her weight. Every student must be focused.

“… And we need to come down to certain fundamental issues. Are there some cultural issues which lead for the performance in some schools and some communities to be better than others? Is it the leadership? What are the questions? What are the answers to these questions?” Gonsalves said, adding that the media has a role to play.

Gonsalves said the nation has made tremendous strides in education and continued to do so.

“But there are gaps and weaknesses which we have to plug. We have to plug the gaps and correct the weaknesses and expand as far as possible, the possibilities,” he said.

Regionally, the pass rate for Math was 33 per cent and 47 per cent for English A.