The results will only get better

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THE results of the National Grade Six Assessment (NGSA) released last Thursday were commendable and reflected generally marked improvements in the overall performance of students.

Though there was a drop in Mathematics after it had moved up last year, the significant increased performance in the hinterland must be good news to the Ministry of Education. In announcing the results last week, Minister of Education Nicolette Henry, pointed out that some 153 hinterland students are heading to President’s College having attained marks above 495. She attributed this to a number of interventions by the government.

For his part, Chief Education Officer, Marcel Hutson said: “We have been trying to bridge the gap by rolling out hinterland development projects…but we have to find a way to significantly close the gap and we believe that technology is one way to bridge the gap between the coast and hinterland.” Although the Ministry of Education has been consistently training teachers, the CEO believes that they have to look at ways to use technology to ‘touch’ the hinterland areas.

From the information provided by the media, the results over the years in the core subjects offered at the examinations, namely Mathematics, English, Science and Social Studies have been way below expectations. The results this year again show a positive turn with English Language climbing to 60 per cent – the highest ever and this is improvement. Again, Minister Henry attributed this to the rolling out of several interventions and initiatives such as education reform, curriculum reform and things that are all linked. “It is the vision of the President to prioritise education…you are seeing improved performances in many subject areas but we will need more strategic leadership and so forth to see results,” Henry said.

The overall results in terms of improvement tell a positive story, but it also shows that more than 50 per cent of pupils in the primary school system still fail to obtain a pass grade (50 per cent) in Mathematics, Science and Social Studies. While the marked improvement is a cause to celebrate, it must be tempered, since going forward in order to keep up the trend of success, there must be no room for complacency. Parents and teachers must from early motivate their charges to make their best leap forward in next year’s examinations.

From reports in the media, the success at this year’s examinations appears to have stemmed from team work with parents encouraging and supporting their children and teachers improving their quality of delivery in the classroom. And of course the government had stepped in, engaging the Caribbean Examinations Council to improve the quality of the grade assessments and subsequently launched the Emergency Mathematics Intervention Plan.

Under this well thought-out strategy, teachers were trained in content and methodology and regular cluster meetings were held in each administrative region. Mathematics coordinators and monitors were also recruited, officers and school administrators were trained to supervise the teaching of mathematics and a diagnostic assessment was done on pupils in the hinterland regions. These results indicate that through collaborative efforts a strategy can work.

That said, now that the results are out, there is no time for the ministry to relax as its focus now should be to upgrade as many as possible of the 40 per cent and 62 per cent of students respectively, who failed to grasp the basic concepts of literacy and numeracy at this year’s NGSA, to secondary school standards.

This approach is necessary if students are to do better in Mathematics and English at the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC), where performance in these two subjects remains poor. However, like Minister Henry said, with the right interventions and strategies the results will only get better as the government’s programmes that are geared in this direction take root.