Education Ministry gears to reduce dropout rate
Meticulous measures are currently being considered by officials within the education system to harness disturbing dropout rate trends that appear to be prevalent in public secondary schools. And measures, according to Minister of Education Shaik Baksh, must begin in earnest at the primary level, failing which students will be forced to enter a six-year programme, which has been streamlined by his Ministry.
“It is no use transitioning these people to the secondary schools because they leave; they drop out. And that is one of the challenges facing secondary education,” the Minister highlighted. He revealed that the dropout rate between grades seven to nine has become alarming, a situation which must be reversed with much urgency.
“We have to turn that around, we have to keep the students in the school so that the completion rates can go up significantly,” Minister Baksh added.
And the very demanding task, according to him, will undoubtedly be bestowed upon teachers within the system. Teachers, he said, have the ability to identify the students who are most likely to drop out of the system. With such knowledge, he noted that teachers would be in a position to solicit the support of parents to aid needful intervening measures. “You have to call in the parents and encourage them (students) to stay and have the interventions. I am appealing to you (teachers) firstly to ensure that something happens at the secondary schools as it is now happening at the primary school with all of the Fast Track Literacy initiative, after hours .”
According to the minister, the efforts are being directed to the weak students in primary schools with the intent of bringing them up to an acceptable standard. And there is a growing need, he said, for similar measures to be extended to the Secondary Schools.
In primary schools, the Ministry has introduced a Grade Four Literacy Certificate and Minister Baksh explained that it is expected that students will attain no less than 50 percent of the recommended percentage. In addition, he revealed that schools with poor performances will be published in the national newspapers.
“I am giving notice now, they will have to work hard and ensure they get the pass rate not even 75 percent but 50 percent…”
And should students fall below the 50 percent pass rate they will have to retake the assessment and be continually monitored, Minister Baksh said. All improvement following will be duly recorded and students will receive commendation, he added.
Without improvement measures at the primary level, the Minister asserted that there will be difficulties in realising the requisite results at the secondary level.
It was just recently that the Minister revealed that students who do not reach the requisite standard required after participating in Mathematics and English at the National Grade Nine Assessment should not be allowed to write the said subjects at the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) level. In fact, he revealed that such students would have to wait another year having taken remedial programmes or they would have to seek the services of private institutions.
He revealed that the Ministry of Education is currently on a mission to review the Grade Nine Assessment, a move which has been prompted by the discovery that the assessment is not being used in the same way as in the primary level Grade Two and Four Assessments. Baksh made this declaration when he addressed a gathering of head teachers.
He emphasized that the Grade Nine Assessment must be used by the schools primarily as a diagnostic tool. “You must look at the Grade Nine passes and do something about it just as at the Grade Four in Primary Schools and devise school-based strategies. Some of you may have been doing this already but a lot are not, it is not being used.”
The Grade Nine Assessment, he explained, should be used in the same way as the Grade Four Assessment to be the diagnostic instrument to do the remediation at Grade 10. “…so at Grade 10 the slow learners, that is those students getting less than 50 percent, not in all the subjects, but in Mathematics and English…We will have to have programmes in the school at Grade 10 to ensure that at the end of Grade 10 the performances goes up.”
Having participated in the programmes, students will be given another test to ensure they would have reached the requisite standards, Baksh added.