MINISTER of Education, Priya Manickchand, has pledged that the Ministry of Education (MoE) will be assiduously investigating the reasons why 559 Grade Six pupils did not write their National Grade Six Assessment (NGSA).
Speaking with the media on the sidelines of the announcement of NGSA results on Friday at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre, Manickchand said that those pupils will not be allowed to become dropouts.
“I am certain that I will not let one single child drop out [at] Grade Six. We have to go and find them. We have to find them and it might not be to put them in First Form [Grade Seven] to do Maths and English, because they haven’t been in school for two years, but they have to become people who are independent earners so we have to find pathways for them,” Manickchand established.
At Friday’s event, it was revealed that 14,380 pupils were scheduled to write the examinations, but only 13,821 eventually turned up to write it.
Guyana has a high dropout rate at the primary school level, with the repercussions showing up in the workforce. According to statistics from the Bureau of Statistics, as of 2020, over 55 per cent of the country’s workforce has primary-school level education or less. The country has maintained this high percentage since 2017.
As Guyana develops as an oil-and-gas nation, the education deficit poses a challenge and impediment to lobbying for local content policies, as there are not many qualified Guyanese to fill many roles in the industry.
Manickchand emphasised that the issue of failing learners at the primary-school level has to be given just as much attention as the high-achievement pupils are receiving.
According to Manickchand, the ministry will also need to do more to come up with alternative pathways for those Grade Six pupils who scored zero in one or more of the NGSA examinations, since placing such pupils into secondary schools may not be the best option.
“You can’t take a child who can’t put a single word on a paper to get marks and throw them into a high school and expect them to function. We have to find individualised pathways for that child, or else you are failing them even before they begin,” Manickchand said.
She noted that further investigation is needed to determine whether education delivery at the school is inadequate, or whether it has to do with deeper socio-economic issues in the child’s home.
She explained that the ministry currently does not have access to the NGSA examination papers, as they are being handled by the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC), but it will be handed over to the ministry once a review period is over.
“What is going on in our system that allows a child to have been in school for six to eight years and can’t write something on the exam paper that would give them even one single mark? Manickchand asked.
“We will go into those boxes to find out at which schools [the pupils come from, and] what is happening in those schools,” Manickchand stated. “Let’s hear from the teachers why this hasn’t worked. It may very well be the teacher says, ‘no you can’t tell me we had this child for six years, he doesn’t come to school'”.
“So, then is it a parental problem,” the Education Minister surmised.