Despite small improvements we are still below par

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YESTERDAY’S editorial commended the top students at the CSEC exams. The best in and of us must be celebrated and encouraged, but those who are not as successful must not be forgotten. Often, we do just that.President Granger has spoken about what he calls “education apartheid” in Guyana, whereby the children who generally tend to do well are those whose families can afford to send them to the elite private schools and to extra lessons. A cursory look at the recent results would show that the private schools continue to yield better results than the public schools.
Something drastic has to be done to restore the public schools to their former glory. There has been no shortage of advice from educators and other commentators on this score. Yet the problem continues. One cannot separate the quality of the output in public education from the wider society. While the education system needs serious reform, that alone will not solve the problem. As we noted yesterday, education involves teachers, parents, administrators and the community. If this combination were to work in unison, we could see the rebirth that we crave.
This year’s CSEC have showed some slight improvements. Crucially, there are improvements in Math and English, the two subjects which have given our students the greatest difficulties. The pass rate in Math has moved from 38.75% last year to 45.07% this year, while English has seen a rise from 46.98% last year to 49.36% this year.
Yes, this improvement must be noted, but the pass rate remains below 50%. It means that half of our children are failing Math and English. When half of your student population is failing the country’s official language, something is radically wrong. The consequences are dire. These deficiencies are invariably reproduced at the higher levels, even among our teachers. This obviously has a negative impact on the quality of the overall workforce.
Failing Math and English also prevents students from admission to the University of Guyana. Something has to be done to remedy the problems with these two critical subjects; something has to be done about the vast majority of students who do not perform well at these exams.
In our small economy and competitive labour market, these young people are more likely to become unemployed and unemployable. When they find employment, the wages would be depressed; they would be the last to be hired and first to be fired. There will always be unequal performances, but the gap should not be that wide.
The turnaround we so badly need is possible. We were top performers before. Many First World countries envied our educational standards. That we have dropped so far speaks to an overall social crisis.
As it is in education, so it is in cricket and the arts and other aspects of national expression. We have to change.