Oct 05, 2020 Letters
In a recent article (“SVN registered 96.60% overall pass rate at CXC,” SN 9/29/20), we highlighted the continued amazing academic success of Saraswati Vidya Niketan (SVN) school at Cornelia Ida, West Coast Demerara. We now take this opportunity to address the controversy surrounding the protest by students at “Queen’s College” and other Georgetown Schools regarding their dissatisfaction with their CXC results and the unprecedented intervention by the Minister of Education to pressure CXC officials.
It is quite alarming that the Minister of Education felt that there was “apparent poor grading of the students” by CXC (“Ministry contacts CXC over apparent poor grading of students at CSEC, CAPE,” SN 9/24/20). Such action is apparently misguided, and leaves open a gaping contradiction: how to explain the fact that SVN has excelled again. This is an important issue and warrants investigation: school lockdown due to COVID-19, apparent poor performance by elite, highly funded Georgetown public schools, but continued outstanding performance by SVN, a private school not in the power centre of Georgetown, operating on a lean budget, barely enough to survive.
To the best of our knowledge, only the government-run schools in Georgetown are complaining. Private schools in Guyana and schools in Berbice and Essequibo have not complained and there are no protests by students there. We have also learnt that the private schools in Trinidad and Tobago have good results and are not complaining. Rather than complaining, the government schools ought to examine their own role in generating the poor results.
We are not fans of CXC for various reasons outside the scope of this essay, but the actions of the Minister of Education in the CXC results controversy show the power of the Georgetown elites. It is in Georgetown where the political elites and their families primarily reside and attend school. And it is in Georgetown where all the “head offices” are, and “bosses” of public education located/reside. We see that power speaks, but speaks only on behalf of those wielding power, which is why the power elites and their progeny always have power. Both of us are products of rural communities, born and raised in dilapidated, run-down rural areas. We attended neglected and underfunded public schools. The past and current injustices done to public schools in rural communities, which are apparently propping up the schools in Georgetown, should be addressed.
It appears to us that, with respect to the CXC and CAPE results, most of the media play along with the Georgetown elites. For example, SVN results were released, but none of the media, except Guyana Times carried the news of the school’s outstanding success. Interestingly, all the main “media houses” are also in Georgetown.
The Minister of Education should stop the unprecedented legitimizing of the whining of elitist Georgetown schools and release the entire CXC results. It is no secret that, despite the billions of dollars pumped into education, the public-school system has been a dismal failure and that is what they are trying to hide. That is why, each year they make selective eye-catching splashes of the few high-fliers who pass many subjects, but there is blackout of data on the rest, 95% or more, of the students who wrote the exams. Education data like other data funded by the taxpayers are hidden in a “black-box”. There is no transparency! The people deserve better! Release the total results for this year and all the other years and let the data speak for itself. Stop politicizing education, a ploy that will only drag down, not lift-up, the dismal state of education in the country.
The Minister of Education must address what system was put in place during the lockdown to ensure adequate delivery of instructions. Can the Minister tell the nation? The Minister must give the nation an update on the current status of the situation. What penalties were in place to ensure compliance? Were there incentives to ensure compliance? How was compliance monitored and what corrective actions were taken in case of identified problems?
Further, since Professor Beckles, Chairman of CXC, announced two days ago that an independent Committee will be reviewing the grading of the exams, both CSEC and CAPE, nothing more has been heard. Has the Committee been set up? Who comprises the Committee? Has the review begun? When are we to expect the findings?
Based on our discussions with parents, little or nothing went on in the government schools during the lockdown, and many teachers were apparently on “paid vacation” and students were left to “mine dem own business”. In the countryside, a large portion of students, especially poor students, have no computer and could not access online teaching. Then there is the problem of the internet that many students especially in the countryside do not have and whose parents cannot afford. So, stop the whining and learn from the mistakes, and do not neglect the schools in rural areas. Georgetown may be the capital city, but it is not the entire country.
Current attempts to undermine the CXC will negatively affect the legitimacy of that body. That is unfair to students who have worked diligently to succeed and forever tarnish all those whose wrote CXC, who may write in the future, and the accreditation they received.
and Somdat Mahabir
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