Care must be taken in a decision to limit the number of subjects that students are permitted to write at the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate [CSEC] examination. This assertion was yesterday made by Mr. Ed Caesar, a former Chief
Education Officer [CEO] of the Ministry of Education.
Caesar was recently tasked with leading a Commission of Inquiry [COI] into the education system, from which a number of recommendations were forthcoming. These are expected to help effect improvement measures.
Although the final report on the COI is yet to be completed, Caesar yesterday assured that there were no recommendations in a preliminary report already presented to the Ministry in this regard.
At the forum earlier this year to present the preliminary report, Caesar had however noted that proper advice for students, particularly as it relates to their subject options, should not be optional.
He said that it is imperative that the public education system have in place a cadre of personnel who are capable of offering this crucial advice.
But Caesar, in an invited comment, yesterday, insisted that the preliminary report did not offer any recommendation that students should be prevented from writing as many subjects as they like if they are so capable.
“We did not say anything about that in our report. All we said is that we are to ensure that our children benefit from any examination that they have to write…but I am aware we have our views. However, we didn’t mention anything at all about that,” Caesar stressed yesterday.
The Education Ministry has imposed a limit on students writing the CSEC examination. Based on a circular signed by CEO, Mr. Marcel Hutson, and disseminated throughout the 11 education districts, “the maximum number of subjects a student can select in any stream in a List, A, B or Sixth Form Secondary School must not exceed 10. Mathematics and English must be included.”
Added to this, “The maximum number of subjects a student can select in a List C, D or E Secondary School must not exceed six. Mathematics and English must be included.”
The circular further pointed out that of the maximum of 10 and six subjects, there is also a pre-requisite to the number of subjects a student can write at CSEC. This will depend on the student’s performance at the National Grade Nine Assessment and/or the Annual Examination administered at the end of Grade 10.
It was outlined that the results of elimination tests administered to Grade 11 students at schools will not be used as a criterion to determine the selection of students to enter for the CSEC examination.
Even as he insisted that the COI had no role to play in advising the Ministry in this regard, Caesar pointed out, “We didn’t say that they must be limited but we want our young people to benefit from their experience at school. How that has to be done, the Ministry has to look at that very carefully and I think this suggestion or what is coming up has to be examined very carefully.”
According to Caesar, “Personally I believe that we must ensure that our young people have the ability and the capacity before they are allowed to write exams.” The former CEO is convinced that “we must stop preparing them [students] merely for exams and prepare them to utilise information to gather information so that they can apply their strategies and techniques to whatever is necessary to live in Guyana or wherever else.
“That to my mind is important. Getting our young people to know how to gather and use information and apply this…whether it is to Maths, English, Geography or whatever, that is critical to develop a young person academically, and for living,” Caesar added.
In order to achieve this goal, Caesar had highlighted the need for Welfare Officers to play an integral role in the guidance of students.
“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,” said Caesar.
Moreover, Caesar had posited that 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 than doing 32 subjects, students can be advised that they can do as few 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.”
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