The Government is calling for a discussion surrounding education here, the second such call in under a year.
The call, again by Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, comes in light of the performance of males in this year’s Common Entrance Examination (CEE).
Of the students who wrote the primary-school-leaving exam, 55.7 per cent met the prescribed standard.
But while 65 per cent of the girls who wrote the exam passed, only 47 per cent of boys did.
“So, nationally, we have a problem here of underachievement by the boy,” Gonsalves told reporters.
He said “part of the story” is that 11-year-old boys are not as well-developed and mature as girl.
“But I am afraid we have a problem and we have to solve it.”
The Prime Minister further said there is unevenness in the performance of the nation’s schools, with 20 of the 62 schools recording a grade below the 50 per cent mark.
And within those schools, there are some “amazing difference” between boys and boys, he further said.
Gonsalves questioned why the disparities exist and said the nation has to find solutions.
“I want to see a discussion,” he said, adding that he has written a 10-point note to be circulated to the Ministry of Education, the Teachers’ Union, and schools.
“It addresses one central issue: lifting the quality of teaching,” Gonsalves said, adding that the nation also has to lift the quality of parenting, the Ministry of Education has to lift its quality, and parents have to lift their efforts.
“But I am not going with a broad brush in this note. I am raising one of the issues. Because, what happens, when you come to address the issue of teacher quality, one answer you will normally get ‘Well, it is not just teachers, there are parents, there are conditions in the schools.’ I accept all of that but let us please, for this moment, zero in one.” Game changer
Gonsalves said research has shown that quality teaching “is invariably the game changer”.
In a year, a good teacher can add one and a half years of educational value while a poor teacher can add just half a year, he further stated.
He said his government has spent a lot of money educating teachers and training them for leadership.
“We have seen improved results. I am not saying we have not, and I am thanking them. We have seen improvements in remuneration and conditions of work for the teachers. I am appealing to them through this medium, let us see if we can lift the game a little further,” he said.
“This is not finding fault or blame. Just for us in this small country to see how we can lift the game,” he further said, adding that 10 per cent of any age cohort in a school would have a learning disorder.
The number of students who passed the CEE this year, the final year when the exam will be used to assess Grade 6 students, represents a 25 percentage point improvement over the 2000 figure, when 30.8 per cent of students passed.
“So we have made progress,” Gonsalves said and congratulated the students, parents, the various communities, and the Ministry of Education.
“But you know my position is this: Even though we have done well compared to where we were before and we have made progress, there is much better than can be done.”
Last year, after the poor performance of the nation’s high school graduates in the school-leaving mathematics and English Language examinations, Gonsalves called for a national discussion on the two subjects.