THE Ministry of Education has announced the establishment of several new schools which will be offering the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations (CAPE). These schools are all located outside of the city of Georgetown, which means that the main beneficiaries will be students from rural communities who otherwise may not have been in a position to benefit from post-CSEC exams.
According to Education Minister Priya Manickchand, seven new secondary schools will be added to the list of schools that will be offering the CAPE examinations. Among these are the Anna Regina Multilateral School in Region Two; West Demerara Secondary in Region Three; Annandale Secondary in Region Four and J C Chandisingh and the Tagore Memorial in Region Six.
This is indeed a significant development which is consistent with the PPP/C’s administration policy to make quality secondary and post-secondary education accessible to a much larger cohort of students who would have completed the full cycle of primary education. Student attainment levels have increased in all regions of Guyana and it is only fitting that the education infrastructure become responsive to this new reality.
Under the PNC administration, secondary school places were extremely limited. The vast number of students were sent to Community High Schools or tops of primary schools which for all practical purposes were just a case of marking time. These schools did not offer any opportunity for students to sit the CSEC examinations. This was manifested in the much higher dropout rates in those schools, when compared to that of the discrete secondary schools and the few Sixth Form Secondary Schools.
In some ways the failure of the previous PNC administration to create enough secondary school places for children who completed primary education was a callous if not scandalous denial of the intellect and academic potential of our young people, many of whom were forced to end their education prematurely. It is an established fact that many children are what are described in the literature as ‘late developers,’ whose potential for further learning cannot be established on the basis of a single examination, in this instance the Common Entrance examination, now referred to as the National Grade Six Assessment.
One of the first interventions made by the PPP/C administration in the field of education was to implement a policy of universal secondary education. Most of the Community High Schools were converted into discrete secondary schools with upgrading programmes in the first year for those students who may require some level of academic consolidation. That was done under the Secondary School Reform Programme. One consequence of that programme was a substantial number of students, who were otherwise written off by the system, now being able to sit the CSEC and in some cases the CAPE examinations.
The decision of the Ministry of Education to provide the requisite teaching and other facilities to an increasing number of discrete secondary schools to cater for CAPE students is a step in the right direction. It is an expression of care and confidence in the potential of our children to do well at national and regional examinations.
And, as the results of the recent CSEC and CAPE examinations have shown, our students have not been found wanting. The results showed that our students are not only as competitive as their regional counterparts, but that they were able to outcompete them in several subject areas. Guyanese students have also emerged as the overall best performing candidates at both the CSEC and CAPE examinations multiple times.
The PPP/C administration has done well to reverse the education decline under the previous PNC administration and to create the enabling conditions for our students to do well, despite the current COVID-19 pandemic. At a more fundamental level, however, it has provided new opportunities for our children to realise their potential to the full limit of their abilities.