February 27, 2015
SVG education outputs lowest in sub-region, despite high inputs

With St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) having inputs into the education system which are among the highest in the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), why then do its student outcomes appear to be among the lowest?{{more}}

Statistics provided in the OECS Education Statistical Digest 2012/13 indicate that SVG had the highest percentage of trained secondary school teachers and the highest public recurrent expenditure on education as a percentage of its GDP for the 2011/12 academic period.

In terms of trained teachers, SVG had 69 per cent of its secondary school teachers being trained — the highest in the OECS — 19 per cent above the regional average of 50 per cent.

In primary schools, the OECS average for trained primary school teachers was 74 per cent, while with 84 per cent, this country had the second highest percentage of trained teachers, coming second to St Lucia, where 89 per cent of their primary school teachers were trained.

SVG spent 17.6 per cent of its total recurrent expenditure on education. This equated to 6.41 per cent of our GDP; making it the highest percentage in the OECS. This translated to EC$38,748,970 being spent at the primary level, and $38,041,547 at the secondary level.

This country also recorded among the lowest pupil to teacher ratios in the sub-region – 15 pupils to one teacher in primary schools, and 11 students to one teacher in secondary schools.

Repetition and drop-out rates high

However, said statistics also show that SVG has the highest repetition and drop-out rates, and is seemingly lagging behind in the quantity and quality of Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examination passes.

At the primary school level, SVG recorded an overall repetition rate (students repeating the same school level in the following academic year) of 4.38 per cent – making it the highest in the OECS territories. Grenada recorded the lowest repetition rate, with 0.60 per cent.

At the secondary level, the overall repetition rate was the highest in the OECS with 12.17 per cent. St Lucia recorded the lowest for that period with 0.70 per cent.

SVG’s primary level drop- out rate was moderate at 0.40 per cent, with Grenada recording the lowest drop-out rate with 0.00 per cent and St Kitts having the highest rate at 0.70 per cent. At the secondary level, SVG recorded a drop-out rate of 2.80 per cent (highest in OECS), while Grenada was the lowest with 0.80 per cent.

Lagging behind in quality and quantity of CSEC passes

In terms of examination results, at the CSEC examinations, 20 per cent of Vincentian students passed five or more subjects, including Mathematics and English A. This was the third lowest recorded in the OECS, with Dominica achieving the highest pass rate, with 33 per cent.

The percentage of students achieving Grades I – III (2012) in English A was 50 per cent, and 28 per cent in Mathematics; with both figures being the second lowest in the OECS.

Vincentian students fared better at the Caribbean Certificate of Secondary Level Competence (CCSLC) examinations, with the percentage of students achieving mastery and competency being 63.9 in Mathematics (third highest in OECS), 62.9 in English (second highest), and 65.5 in Information Systems (third highest).

Social safety net programmes

Among the OECS statistics, although only two social safety net programmes — School Feeding in primary schools and the Book Loan Scheme in secondary schools – are recorded for SVG, some of the programmes recorded for Dominica and St Lucia, which have six programmes listed, also exist in SVG. The programmes for these countries include school feeding programmes, text book schemes, uniforms, transportation subsidy, examination and school registration fees.

When SEARCHLIGHT contacted chief education officer Lou-Ann Gilchrist, she said that although the Ministry of Education appreciates the opportunity to speak on the statistics, it would require some time to prepare a “cogent response,” so that the public can understand the figures that have been presented in the digest.

The Ministry’s response is expected next week.