– Welfare Officers must take up slack
Proper advice for students, particularly as it relates to their subject options, should not be optional. In fact, it is imperative that the public education system has in place a cadre of personnel capable of offering this crucial advice.
This proposal is one that has been made by the Commission of Inquiry [COI] into the education system.
According to Chairman of the Commission, Mr. Ed Caesar, “Our members are suggesting that if there can’t be a welfare person in a school, there must be a Welfare Officer responsible for a cluster of no more than five schools in every region.”
But according to Caesar, the Welfare Officer must also possess guidance and counselling skills since such persons would essentially have to be more than a mere Welfare Officer. “That person has to advise on careers with respect to these students,” said Caesar.
“Rather doing 32 subjects, students can be advised that they can do as little as seven and be able to pursue their career of choice.”
“People need to advise our young people but in order for people to do that they need to know how to advise…” said Caesar. “The Welfare [within the public education system] is a cry for help,” he added.
In conducting the COI, Caesar led his team across the length and breadth of Guyana. According to him, “Every place that we have gone, there has been a cry for Welfare [but] Welfare Officers are few and far between.”
As such, it has been recommended that the Education ministry direct keen attention to this area if students are to be more efficient in their choice of subjects, Caesar noted.
The increasing number of subjects that students have been sitting at the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate [CSEC] examination has long been gaining the attention of the Ministry of Education.
Minister of Education, Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine, had in fact informed that the number of subjects offered by students could be up for revision.
Commenting on this issue soon after taking up the education portfolio, the Minister said, “I believe that this multitude of subjects that students are doing we will have to have a look at that. Frankly it has always really boggled my mind to know how a student can be doing 18 subjects and more.”
According to the Minister, he is of the firm belief that school cannot only be about classrooms and subjects but about other things as well. “Schools have to be about theatre and music and all kinds of things that make for a rounded education. It cannot be about children rushing from the classroom to extra lessons and beating themselves in the head because they have to pass all these subjects with handsome grades…” added the Minister.
The pressure of doing a vast number of subjects, the Minister said, “Is really not a very healthy learning environment so I would like to see a concentration on fewer subjects and a concentration on wider cultural educational experience.”
He had moreover alluded to the need to further discussions in this regard with the relevant senior officers of his Ministry.
However, his predecessor, Priya Manickchand, had expressed her view that writing a wide variety of subjects could in fact, help to ensure that students are thoroughly prepared for the leadership capacity they are expected to embrace later in life.
She had pointed out then than while there are students who do few subjects it may not be a challenge to them. “They are excellent; they are good and so they feel they need to do wide subject entries as possible,” she had explained.
It must however be noted that the matriculation rate recommended by the Ministry of Education is a mere five CSEC subjects including Mathematics and English.
When questioned by this publication on the matter, too, former Registrar of the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC), Dr. Didacus Jules, said that while he is aware of calls being made to limit the number of subjects candidates write at CSEC, the matter had not come up for deliberation at the level of CXC. This publication is yet to ascertain if this matter has since been addressed by CXC.
But Dr. Jules had said, “We don’t consider it to be a matter under CXC’s purview; this is a matter for parents, the schools and ultimately the Ministry.”
However, he said, “Our view on it is that you should not put a limit on people’s capacity; whatever subject you feel you can do you ought to be allowed to do.”
He underscored, too, that one factor that must remain clear is that the number of subjects that are undertaken does not determine whether a candidate is able to secure the status of top regional performer. “That is the bottom line,” Dr. Jules had asserted.
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