-during meeting with MoE officials
AS the Ministry of Education (MoE) continues to deliberate on a way forward for Grade Six pupils who are scheduled to write the National Grade Six Assessment (NGSA) this year, officials on Thursday met with representatives of the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU) to hear their views.
Aside from suggestions already proffered by other stakeholders, the GTU has proposed a fourth school term followed by a written exam in December.
“The meeting went well. GTU made recommendations with what they thought should happen with the Grade Six, and we had a healthy discussion on the pros and cons of what they were saying, and now we have to mull on that,” Minister of Education Priya Manickchand said after the meeting had ended.
Thursday’s meeting was the third of its kind held between the two bodies as part of the ministry’s plans to engage key stakeholders on the way forward for these pupils.
Last week consultation meetings were held with over 2000 parents and more than 700 Grade Six teachers.
The other options suggested thus far include 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.”
However, while the option of not writing the examinations and simply placing the students in schools has been put forth, the general consensus from stakeholders has been that the pupils should be given the option to write an assessment of some sort. What form the assessment will take and when it will be done remains undecided.
Parents for the most part have largely supported the writing of the full exams with Papers One and Two, but with content up to Grade Five.
Written annually during the Easter vacation period, the usual practice is for pupils to write Paper One and Paper Two for Mathematics, English, Social Studies and Science. The accumulation of those scores determines what secondary school the child would be placed at.
Depending on their performance, students can be placed at one of the six “national schools” which are all based in the city, or they can be placed in a school within their region.
Over the years, the assessment has become a big deal for the pupils and their parents, with most pupils putting in much effort to be among the “top students” who are awarded places at the senior secondary schools.
However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, primary schools were closed in March last year. There has been much uncertainty over the way forward as it pertains to the hosting of the 2021 NGSA and the reopening of the schools to prepare pupils in the event that there will be a written exam.
In 2020, the abrupt closure of schools resulted in the exam being pushed back to July of that year. Schools were partially reopened for the pupils to facilitate face-to-face interaction with their teachers.
Minister Manickchand had maintained that the writing of the NGSA is largely dependent on when the ministry will be able to reopen schools for pupils. However, she said that decision rests with the Ministry of Health (MoH).
Manickchand said she explained this position to the GTU officials, who expressed agreement and an understanding of the situation.
“We’re pretty much done the assessments [of the schools], so it’s not whether we are physically ready, it is more about the numbers [of COVID-19 cases], and based on health giving us permission to go back in. We all accepted that it would be based on the Ministry of Health,” she said.
GTU General-Secretary Coretta McDonald, said the GTU concurs that moving forward with any partial re-opening of schools for the primary level should involve the advice of the health authorities.
“We have to be absolutely certain our children are safe before we open school. We have to take into consideration, we have to look at washing troughs, sanitisers, bins, cleaners to ensure that they sanitise classrooms, care packages for teachers, ensure rotational systems are in place and so on. Those are the factors we have to narrow down on, if the MoH gives the clearance,” she said.