August 31, 2010
Education glass half full

Tue, Aug 31, 2010

Last weekend’s SEARCHLIGHT was filled with stories of the successes of our young people in the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) CSEC examinations.

Many older persons still refer to the fifth form exams as CXCs, from the days when the CXC only examined students at the Ordinary Level.{{more}} However, now that the CXC, the examining body, also examines students at A’level and at the third form level, the secondary school leaving exams are correctly known as CSEC, which is short for the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate. CAPE or the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination is the equivalent of the old GCE A’levels, while the CCSLC is written in the third forms and is the Caribbean Certificate of Secondary Level Competence.

SEARCHLIGHT congratulates all the successful students and wishes them all the very best for the future. Those who did not do so well should be encouraged by the story of young Keron Matthews of the Petit Bordel Secondary School, who, after disappointing himself and his relatives last year, got serious and returned passes in seven subjects this year.

A release from the Ministry of Education said that this year, there were 12,015 subject entries in 32 subject areas, from 25 secondary schools. There was an overall pass rate of 69% this year, compared with 66% last year and 62% in 2008.

Included among the 25 secondary schools which wrote exams were students from the Buccament Bay Secondary School, the George Stephens Sr. Secondary School and the Thomas Saunders Secondary School, all of which opened their doors in 2005 and entered students for the CSEC for the first time this year. These schools recorded pass rates of 64%, 70% and 72% respectively.

Some local commentators have raised eyebrows at the relatively small number of students from these schools who wrote the CSEC this year, compared with the number assigned to their first forms back in 2005, and have implied that the low completion rate provides support for the argument against Universal access to secondary education.

What perhaps is not considered is the tremendous value added to all the students who enter secondary school, whether they get to fifth form in 5, 6, 7 or 8 years or never get there at all. To focus on the number who do not make it, rather than those who do, is to have a glass half empty perspective on the matter. We prefer to look at it as half full.

For example, the valedictorian at the Buccament Bay Secondary, Alex Burnett, not only passed six subjects (including Mathematics and English) at the CSEC, but he obtained grade ones in three of them. To have come from a position five years ago where he could not acheive the minimum standard of the Common Entrance Exam, to where an external examining body such as the CXC has classified his performance in three subjects as being above the required standard and in three others as “outstanding”, is remarkable.

We however acknowledge that the attrition rate at some of these new secondary schools seems very high. Our checks with educators at some of these new secondary schools indicate however, that there are several factors to be considered. One educator told SEARCHLIGHT that some of the students who had been assigned to these schools five years ago never enrolled, while many of those who did enroll are still in the system, but because of various learning disabilities and / or less than ideal home situations, need more than five years to achieve the necessary standard to write the CSEC exam.

The educator acknowledged that some students may never make it to fifth form, but those who achieve third form standard now have the opportunity to leave school with a CCSLC certificate which signifies competence in five subject areas including English and Mathematics at the secondary level.

The extra effort and remedial work being put in by our teachers must be acknowledged. Many of them have received special training in literacy and differentiated teaching and now have the opportunity to put into practice the skills for which they have been certified. The teachers are the real heroes of the Education Revolution. The task may seem daunting, but success stories such as those featured last week make it worthwhile.

We also encourage parents not to give up on their children. One educator said if she could point to a single factor which made the difference between success and failure, it would be parental involvement.

We must keep up the fight. Our children’s future and the future of our nation are worth it.