Wind of change blowing in education
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Chief Education Officer (CEO), Marcel Hutson, speaking at the press conference Friday (Photo by Adrian Narine)
Chief Education Officer (CEO), Marcel Hutson, speaking at the press conference Friday (Photo by Adrian Narine)

— Chief Education Officer

WITH the unveiling of the best ever National Grade Six Assessment (NGSA) results, the Ministry of Education is hoping that it will mark the turning point for great successes in the education sector in the years ahead.

Chief Education Officer (CEO), Marcel Hutson, said government is working on both sustenance and continued improvement through its strong innovation campaign.

“We have done much better than previous years. Personally, I sense that there is a turning around in our education system for the better. I sense fresh breath of air,” Hutson declared, before referring to a quotation by Chinese Philosopher Lao Tzu which says, “A journey into a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

The NGSA exams saw improvements in every single subject – Mathematics, English Language, Social Studies and Science – with Mathematics recording a 30 per cent increase in the number of students gaining 50 per cent and more.
Hutson said the Education Ministry has taken not just one, but a series of steps inspired by a request by President David Granger, which resulted in this year’s success at the NGSA.

“The turnaround we saw in the Mathematics involved a process. It just didn’t happen. It began with a mandate given by His Excellency, the President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana David Granger, to prepare an emergency action plan to improve the performance in Mathematics. Subsequently, a team of officers was put together for this purpose,” Hutson explained.

The plan was drafted and implemented with several steps to achieving Maths improvement in the 2017 exams.

More than 1000 teachers were trained in content and methodology and cluster meetings were held fortnightly with both public and private schools.

“These meetings in the past would have been held once a month, but taking into consideration the urgency that we wanted to move, we decided that we would have created a community of learners where teachers benefitted from the experiences of each other.”

Mathematics coordinators and monitors were also recruited for all schools and special professionals employed to monitor teaching to ensure teachers stick with the curriculum and programmes implemented for maximum impact.

School administrators and education officers were trained to supervise teaching of Mathematics, and specialised treatment given to hinterland schools, resulting in vast improvement in performances in those areas.

DIAGNOSTIC ASSESSMENT
“We discovered that some of our regions operated under peculiar circumstances and so what we did, we conducted a diagnostic assessment with a specialised treatment for certain schools in the hinterland, so the treatment was a little different in terms of what we did in the other regions because of the special conditions that existed there,” the CEO explained.

Text blasts, radio commercials, stickers placed on cars, visiting of homes and schools and several other public relations campaigns were done.

Special visits and intense conversations were held by a special team from the Ministry, which included the CEO and Minister Henry, with stakeholders in Paramakatoi, Mahdia and Monkey Mountain, among other far-flung communities to ensure greater parental and community participation. A series of mock exams was also given to the pupils countrywide.

“There was a core team who worked continually… There were teachers who worked hard. There were teachers who concentrated on getting the work done… these persons worked to make what we see here today, a reality. It’s all about team, one man can’t do it,” Hutson said.

Hutson, however made a call on all educators and other stakeholders to not just serve, but lead the way in fighting to help pupils realise their full potential.

“We are dealing with the lives of our children. We are dealing with fulfilling potential of our children. So we must practice servant leadership as teachers, as officers, as stakeholders generally we must serve… This is not an event… an event comes and goes, but a movement continues,” Hutson said.

Going forward, the Ministry will consider all plans that worked and review the programme for greater impact at the low grades and start mock exams in Grade Five, and the CEO urged all stakeholders to believe in each child.

“We will hold high expectations of our students… If you feel our children can’t perform then they will not perform but if you believe that there is something in them that will make them do well, you will push and you will cause them to do well,” Hutson said.

He added: “Accountability of students performance at the level of the school and classroom will be brought sharply into focus… schools must perform… we can’t have schools not performing for decades and nothing is done about that… We will pre-package model lessons on videos for hinterland schools… Our watchwords will be sustainability and continued improvement.”

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