– But there will be some exceptions says Minister Baksh
Although there may be some exceptions, the Ministry of Education is on a mission to limit the number of subjects that students will be allowed to write at the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) Examination. It is expected that students will write no more than eight subjects. This disclosure was recently made by Minister of Education, Shaik Baksh, who noted that the matter has been brought up for discussion at the level of the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC). The Minister was at the time addressing a gathering of Head Teachers at the National Centre for Resources Development (NCERD).
According to the Minister, the idea to limit the number of subjects being written at CSEC to no more than eight subjects, is in fact a state-of-affairs which is obtained at schools throughout the Caribbean. He revealed that he has 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 subjects that 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 if they could be allowed to write additional subjects. We listened to them, we listened to the voices of the youths and we said okay.”
For this reason, 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.
But 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.
The Ministry also has plans to monitor the number of subjects students are able to write at the level of the Caribbean Advance Proficiency Examination (CAPE). According to the Minister, a circular has also been issued in this regard defining this development. “We have made it in such a way that a child can go on to acquire the associate degree status. We maintain that for the CAPE because we know that many students take the CAPE because they want to acquire this status so we will continue to allow this to be,” Baksh asserted.
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