The President should have a chat with his Minister of Education. Her comments at the announcement of the results of the National Grade Six Assessment (NGSA) were petty and ridiculous.
If Guyana had a more vibrant civil society and if the politics of the country was not as polarized as it is, the Minister of Education would have come under pressure to resign and revert back to private law practice. It may not be too hard for her to do so and relieve the country of the burden of ever listening to the sort of remarks which she made yesterday.
The Chief Education Officer announced improvements in the performance of students in three areas. The Minister, however, did not wish to credit the previous administration with this success. Instead, she said that the students did well in spite of the efforts of the previous administration.
This is a cheap and petty shot across the board of the previous government. But it also stands in contradiction to the report which was read by the Chief Education Officer. That report spoke about improvements in the performance of students in three subject areas.
Without explaining how she came to her conclusion that these improvements cannot be credited to measures of the previous administration, the Minister was adamant in her stance that the students did well in spite of the previous government.
Yet, she herself had used the very improvements in exam passes at examinations in order to justify improvements in education in general. During her 2014 Budget speech, this is what she had to say: “Let us talk about how results have come over the years. In 1990 – which is the overall pass rate with students getting five or more subjects, grades 1 to 2 and then later on 3 – we had 21% of the population passing generally at CXC. In 1995, with a commitment of the people of this country and the necessary allocation in the budget, we had seen a 9% increase and 29% of our children had passed, generally. By 2000, it had moved to 46%. By 2005, CSEC results moved to 60%. By 2010, it was 66%.”
She went on: “Let us talk about how results have come over the years. In 1990 – which is the overall pass rate with students getting five or more subjects, grades 1 to 2 and then later on 3 – we had 21% of the population passing generally at CXC. In 1995, with a commitment of the people of this country and the necessary allocation in the budget, we had seen a 9% increase and 29% of our children had passed, generally. By 2000, it had moved to 46%. By 2005, CSEC results moved to 60%. By 2010, it was 66%.”
The Minister was not making an argument that these improvements were in spite of what the PPP/C had done. In fact she sought to link these improvements to the increased Budgetary spending on education.
It is therefore a case of double standards for her to now refuse to provide the APNU+AFC with credit for doing the same and for achieving improved results; significantly improved results this year.
It may have been understandable if she had argued that perhaps the better results were because of an easier examination. Many persons are of the view that there is no consistency in standards when it comes to these examinations. Some of the high-flyers said that the examinations were easy. But in one year when the Caribbean Examinations Council has set the examinations, one top student complained that he found the mathematics examination difficult.
Each year the Ministry reels off the names of the high-flyers and increased in passes. But no mention is made of the large numbers who fail the examinations. And during Manickchand’s previous tenure, there were massive failures. In fact even yesterday results point again to the general pattern of the top-flyers coming mainly from Region 11.
No one is arguing that the APNU+AFC was able to transform education. Very few would argue that. The measures for this are not made because politicians do not wish to confront their failures. But if results have improved then try to find out why and give credit where credit is due rather than making political statements which are not backed by evidence.
For the Minister, without proof, to say that the performance of the students this year is in spite of and not because of the previous administration is a signal, if ever there was one, that President Mohamed Irfaan Ali has blundered in his choice to head the Education Ministry.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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