Chief Education Officer asks for time before math, English debate
September 21, 2012
Chief Education Officer asks for time before math, English debate

While a date has not yet been set for a national discussion on the performance of Vincentian students in the area of mathematics and English at regional examinations, the Ministry of Education has already taken steps to tackle the problem.{{more}}

So says Chief Education Officer Lou-anne Gilchrist, who, at a rare press conference held by the ministry on Monday, said that Caribbean Secondary Examination Certificate (CSEC) subject meetings have been reintroduced in an effort to increase teachers’ confidence, competence, and morale, and for the benefits of the students under their care.

“In fact, quite a number of them have already taken place, so that the teachers can approach the new school year and the teaching of the subjects with fresh information, information that is going to be used to guide their practice. These workshops are going to be repeated in the second term, because right after, the students will be engaged in finalizing their SBA (School Based Assessment) projects,” Gilchrist said at the Transport and Works conference room.

“We want to ensure that all the teachers in SVG understand the various CSEC syllabi, that they understand the rubrics that they need to use and with which students need to become familiar and that they employ assessment procedures which are in line with their instructions,” she added.

In the May/June 2012 examinations, only 27.9 per cent of the students in SVG who wrote math obtained a passing grade, while 49.97 per cent were successful in English A.

Gilchrist added that various subject panels have been established, including at the primary level, to ensure that there are communities of practice, so that teachers can share information and support one another in their practice.

Reading from an official Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) press release, the education official highlighted that the performance in math and English in the region has been declining over the years, from 41 per cent of students receiving grades one to three in these subjects in 2010, to 35 per cent in 2011 and 33 per cent this year.

She stated that with regard to mathematics, topics, such as range, perimeter, and profit and loss, that should be covered at the lower secondary level, were not fully understood, and that the Subject Awards Committee has called on the region to address the issue of teaching and performance in mathematics, by reorganizing its mathematics programme, and facilitating access to instructional resources.

“With regard to English, we were told that students’ performance in English was hampered by their actual speaking styles and their writing styles,” Gilchrist said.

“Students tend to write in what we call ‘texties’, so instead of the pronoun ‘you’ being spelt ‘Y-O-U’ we have the letter ‘U’; now that is not academic writing.

“Another problem which is a general problem, is that students tend to speak … in restricted codes.

“If you are speaking in restricted codes, that means that you are basically taking short cuts when you think, and if thoughts precede speech and you are thinking in shorthand, then you are going to speak in a restricted code; therefore you are preventing yourselves from thinking things through and developing your points logically in your brain.

“In writing, it stymies you … therefore you cannot formulate it and express it fully in the standard register (Standard English).”

Gilchrist added that summary writing skills have also been identified as a problem, and that steps have been taken to address this issue.

According to Gilchrist, before a national debate can take place, analysis of data is currently being processed by the ministry, in an effort to ensure that strategies developed are in line with students’ needs.

“So, do give us some time so that we can present to the nation information that is factual, that is accurate and that has come from a variety of sources which have to do with teaching and learning, and student performance,” she pleaded.(JJ)