THE results of the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) exams are out. As usual, we are celebrating the students who have done extraordinarily well.
This year the top student passed a whopping 20 subjects. Of course we have become accustomed to children excelling in such a high volume of subject areas. There are misgivings in some quarters about students doing such a large volume of subjects. The Minister of Education is on record of favouring a reduction of that volume.
But for now, the students need to be congratulated for committing the time and dedication that must have been necessary to do that well in so many subjects. In an era when children are easily seduced by the many distractions on social media and the conventional media, it is heartening that some of them could resist those temptations, at least partly. It is also commendable that some children do believe that education still matters.
We live in a country and world where the benefits of education are not always apparent to young people. Many of them put in the hard work, only to be left without work or have to work for less than a living wage. We hope, that despite these challenges, more of our young people show faith in education as the passport to a better life.
Ultimately, poverty and want can be effectively overcome by a sound all-round education. And if the individual students are properly educated, it aids in the quality of the community, the workforce and the economy at large.
We are very sure that those top students could not do it without the active support of their parents and teachers. The cry from many teachers across the country is one for support from parents. They complain of little involvement by parents in the education of their children. Parents do not attend PTA meetings or respond to requests for meetings with the teachers. Some parents berate teachers in the presence of the students and in a few instances teachers have been verbally and physically abused.
We feel that education cannot be fixed without increased involvement by parents. While we recognise the challenges that parents face economically and otherwise, it is our view that more can be done in this regard. Perhaps the Ministry of Education and other related agencies should mount aggressive campaigns aimed at mobilising parents and sensitising them about their responsibility to their children and their education.
The minister has already indicated that he would be resuscitating the national Parent Teachers Association to be used as a vehicle in such an initiative. We urge community organisations and activists to help in this drive. After all, they function in the communities and have ready contact with parents. We need all hands on deck to meet this challenge.
The teachers of the successful students must also be congratulated for their perseverance in the midst of the gloom that hovers over our education landscape. Often parents blame teachers for the poor output. A lot has been said and written about the lack of dedication by teachers inside the classroom. Many put much more emphasis on Extra Lessons than in classroom instruction. Again, the Minister of Education has signalled his unhappiness with this scenario. Suffice to say that linkage between the efforts of teachers and excellent results by students needs no elaboration.
In congratulating the teachers, special mention should be made of the Saraswati Vidya Niketan (SVN) School which copped seven of the top 20 spots. But more importantly, the SVN recorded a 93% pass rate in Math and 86% in English. This is stunning!
It is almost double the national rates. When you add the 93% pass rates in Grades 1-3, here is a unique story.
The principal, Swami Aksharananda must be singled out for his vision. Perhaps his insights may give other teachers something to begin to work with. Here is what he has to say: “When we were in school, we had great role models to look up to, such as Forbes Burnham and Cheddi Jagan who were brilliant spokesmen and would mesmerise everyone with their speech. If we are to bring back cultural intelligence in the education sector, plus the emotional intelligence, we would be serving our country a great deal. We would be preparing people that are much more wholesome, people who just do not seek to pencil push all day and just seeking to occupy offices and so on. This is the reason we started a school like this; because we felt that it was something that was quite lacking in society.”