— parents tell Education Ministry
THE 2021 National Grade Six Assessment (NGSA) could be set using content only up to the Grade Five curriculum level, after parents and guardians of Grade Six students voted overwhelmingly for this option on Friday when a survey was carried out by the Ministry of Education (MoE).
The survey was done during the course of two virtual Zoom meetings, when the Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand, and other MoE officials met with over 2,000 parents and guardians of Grade Six students.
The first meeting was held at 10:00hrs for parents and guardians of students hailing from Regions One, Two, Three, Four, Five and Georgetown, while another meeting was held at 13:00hrs for parents and guardians of students from Regions Six, Seven, Eight, Nine and 10.
The consultation meetings came one day after the ministry held a similar meeting with over 700 Grade Six teachers and primary school headteachers as part of its plan to work out a way forward for the sitting of the 2021 NGSA.
MEETING WITH GTU
The MoE is now expected to meet with the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU) next week to discuss the format the NGSA will take when it is written this year.
During Friday’s meeting, the parents were asked to participate in a survey whereby they were asked what they thought “should be used to place current Grade 6 students into secondary schools?”.
Some of the options from which parents could select included having the students write the “Full exam. Papers One and Two, up to Grade Six content”; “Full exam. Paper One and Two, up to Grade Five content”; “No exam and use the Grade Two and Four Assessment results to place students”; “Paper One alone up to Grade Six content”; and “Math and English alone up to Grade Six.”
In both meetings the parents largely voted for “Full exam. Papers 1 and 2, up to Grade 5 content”, while many parents rejected the idea of having the students being placed without the holding of any exams.
Written annually during the March/April Easter vacation, the NGSA involves students writing Paper One and Paper Two examinations in Mathematics, English, Social Studies and Science, with the scores being used to determine how to place students in a secondary school.
Depending on their performance, students can be placed at one of six “national schools,” all based in the city, or they are placed in a school within their region.
Over the years, the assessment has become a big deal for the students and their parents, with many students often putting in much effort into aspiring to be among the “top students” who are awarded places at the senior secondary schools.
However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused schools to close since March, 2020, there has been much uncertainty over the way forward as it pertains to the hosting of the 2021 NGSA. In 2020, the situation saw the NGSA being pushed to being held in July instead of its customary March/April slot, and schools were partially reopened for the Grade Six students, so that they could work along with their teachers.
On Friday, Minister Manickchand told the parents that their contributions during the meetings would be considered as the ministry continues to contemplate its options going forward with the examinations. However, notwithstanding the anxiety, the minister clarified that the ministry could not offer any certainty on the dates at this time. Nonetheless, the minister reassured the parents that the MoE is working in the best interest of their children.
“What I can promise you is that we are not going to sit back and throw up our hands and give up. That’s not an option for us. We don’t have the option of taking the easy route. We have the responsibility of making a decision in the best interest of the children of this country,” Manickchand said.
WILL BE INFORMED
Manickchand noted that the nation will be informed as soon as a decision is made. In the past, the minister had maintained that the holding of the exams will hinge on when the ministry will be able to allow the Grade Six students to return to schools, so that they can have full-time access to in-person teaching from their teachers.
The minister explained; however, that the decision on sending Grade Six pupils back out to school does not rest with the MoE, but is dependent on advice from the Ministry of Health and word from the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development about the readiness of schools in all of the respective regions.
In the interim, as the Grade Six pupils remain home, they are being engaged virtually via a number of means, including timetabled programming on the Learning Channel, while the ministry has also distributed worksheets to all pupils across the country. The arrangement for virtual engagements did present limitations, due to unequal access across the country.
“There are many people that do not have access to the Internet, radio or television and there are parents that have difficulty using the worksheets with their children,” the minister had said.