Mixed views on CSEC cap

GTU President Mark Lyte

— as teachers, students weigh in on proposed cap on CSEC subjects

SINCE it was reported in the Guyana Chronicle on June 17 that the Ministry of Education (MoE) is exploring the possibility of limiting the number of Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) subjects students can write, there have been mixed reviews.
As reported before, the circular placed the upward limit for the number of CSEC subjects that can be written at 10 and six subjects.
The circular read: “The maximum number of subjects a student can select in any stream in a List A, B or Sixth Form Secondary school must not exceed ten (10). Mathematics and English must be included. The maximum number of subjects a student can select in any stream in a List C, D or E Secondary school must not exceed six (6). Mathematics and English must be included.”
Of the maximum of 10 and six subjects, there is also a prerequisite included in the circular. It states, “The number of subjects a student can offer at the Caribbean Secondary Education certificate examinations will depend on his/ her performance at the National Grade 9 Assessment and/or the Annual Examinations administered at the end of Grade 10.”
According to the circular, too, the results of elimination tests administered to Grade 11 students at schools will not be used as a criterion to determine the selection of students to enter for the CSEC examinations.

Milne Symour

In response to this, many have voiced their support and many have expressed their concern.
Retired Deputy Headmaster of the Christ Church Secondary School and parent of a student who wrote CSEC examination this year, Mahendra Bhopaul told the Guyana Chronicle, “Students should be allowed to write as many subjects as they have the ability to write.”
Senior teacher of the Cummings Lodge Secondary School and member of the Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU), Milne Symour, explained to the Guyana Chronicle that within the education sector, there are several pressing issues that require urgent attention.
The number of CSEC subjects that students write, however, is a minor issue, according to him.

Contrasting Symour’s position was President of the GTU, Mark Lyte, who in another section of the media opined that students are pressured into writing numerous subjects when only few, among them Mathematics and English, are needed for employment or to further their studies.
Symour further contended, however, that there are many intelligent and capable students in Guyana, and their abilities must not be limited. He felt that instead of a maximum limit, there should be a minimum limit so that students can acquire substantial knowledge.
Nonetheless, many have voiced opinions and arguments for and against this topic. While many posit that many subjects lead to detraction from other extra-curricular activities and that many subjects are not necessary to engage in tertiary studies or to even work, others posit that the reasons for doing so include acquiring recognition and scholarships.
One student of the Bishop’s High Sixth Form and formerly of Queen’s College, Shemar Britton, contested the notion that students who write many CSEC subjects are not well-rounded.
He related that he successfully wrote 13 subjects while being actively involved in many sports, copping in the process the runner-up position for Junior Sportsman of the Year.
The circular laying out the stipulations was signed by Chief Education Officer (CEO), Marcel Hutson, and copied to the permanent secretary; regional executive officers, Regions 1-10; the Secretary of the Teaching Service Commission; and the General Secretary of the Guyana Teachers’ Union. Head teachers should have received it sometime last week.
Further discussions about this proposal will be conducted at a head teachers’ meeting at a later date.
This proposal comes several months after it was first floated by former Minister of Education, Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine. It was reported then that Dr Roopnaraine was of the belief that students should have a more rounded education, through involvement in activities such sports and drama. It was also reported in the media that Dr. Roopnaraine stressed that he wanted school to be a place of a “wider cultural experience,” as opposed to concentrating on writing many subjects and having to attend numerous extra lessons.