The possibility of a strong limit being placed on the number of subjects that students are allowed to write at the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) Examination may soon be enforced.
According to Minister of Education, Shaik Baksh, the Ministry is seriously considering making this move adding that “there will come a time when we will put a strong limit even for the talented students.”
However, no policy has been formulated to discontinue the practice by students to write in excess of eight subjects. However, there are yet stipulations governing which students are permitted to write the exam, the Minister said.
He revealed that only students who would have scored 75 percent or more of the marks at the Grade Nine Assessment would be given the privilege to write more than eight subjects at CSEC.
“We are still allowing those talented students to write more.
My own view in all of this is that students should have a clear limit, no matter how talented they are. Students should not be writing 15 and 16 subjects.”
The Education Ministry had some time ago issued a circular directing that students write a limit of eight subjects with only a few exceptions.
However, those writing more than eight are few in number, Baksh added.
“It is a very small number of students writing more than 12 subjects. The average is 10 subjects for most students but we would like the average to be eight since we would have sent out the circular.”
The call to limit students to eight subjects has been a matter that was addressed at the level of the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) and is a state of affairs which is obtained at schools throughout the Caribbean.
Baksh, just last year, had had discussions with Chief Education Officers and Ministers in Trinidad, Barbados and Jamaica who have concurred that the move is an essential one.
Moreover, Baksh said that the Ministry has issued an advisory to this effect to all schools.
However, he noted that the ultimate decision will be that of the teachers who will determine, based on their teaching resources among other factors, whether students will be able to write more subjects.
“The main idea is to limit the number of subjects students write at Grade 10; across the Caribbean it is eight subjects… I had thrown this out to all the students in Georgetown at a forum at Queen’s College and some of the students had stood up and asked if they had special talents whether they could be allowed to write additional subjects.
“We listened to them, we listened to the voices of the youths and we said okay.”
He said that it was deduced that those who performed well at the Grade Nine Assessment, that is attaining 75 percent or more of the marks required, will be permitted to write more than eight subjects.
“Here again, we are going to leave it to the schools. We don’t want to tell you what subjects; you know that better than us.
So after the Grade Nine you will give them additional subjects and you will make a determination whether they write 10, 12 or more subjects,” Baksh asserted.
Nonetheless, he warned that teachers must seek to use discretion when making such decisions.
“Don’t go to 16 and 18; we know much has been said about that…The teachers will have to be the ones to advise the parents. But we know there will still be some parents who will want their children to write 20 subjects but they don’t know the consequences of that. You have to educate them, persuade them…”
“I know one school here in the city at Grade Seven they offer 14, 15 and 16 subjects and I don’t see why.
This is clearly an overload but this will be left to the teachers, we don’t want to dictate everything to the schools but at grade seven and eight you will determine for a rounded education how you approach it, that is, how you structure it and so on.”
However, the Minister noted that he is aware there will be those cases when parents would prefer to have their children write additional subjects outside of the public school system in defiance to the advice offered by teachers in the public system.
In such instances, he noted that it will not be on any public based teachers’ conscience.
But since the Ministry has a proviso in place, it has been decided that students who have the talent will be allowed to write as many subjects as they can handle at CSEC.
The process will however be closely monitored, Baksh added.
According to the Minister, parents as well as students must come to the realisation that “at the end of the day it isn’t about getting 40 subjects, it is about the education of the child, how meaningful it is in the long run.”
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