Questions are being raised about the academic performance of Vincentian students, whose outcome is among the lowest in the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), although the country’s inputs into the education system is among the highest within the sub-region.
“Despite St. Vincent having … the highest amount of money being spent on these things, we are not performing. What, therefore, is wrong? These are the questions we must address,” Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace said Monday as he commented on the situation.
The OECS Education Statistical Digest 2012/13 has reported that St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) spent 17.6 per cent of its total recurrent expenditure (6.41 per cent of its GDP) on education, the highest percentage in the nine-member OECS.
SVG’s 15 pupils to one teacher in primary schools and 11 students to one teacher in secondary schools are among the lowest in the OECS.
However, within the OECS, SVG recorded the highest repetition rates at both the primary school (4.38 per cent) and secondary school (12.17 per cent) levels.
During the Budget Debate in January, shadow minister for education, Opposition lawmaker and Southern Grenadines representative, Terrance Ollivierre, pointed out that 1,531 students dropped out of school in SVG between 2009 and 2013
Ministry of Education statistics show that 235 of the 1,531 were primary school students, while 1,296 were secondary school students.
Thirty-three students dropped out of school without completing the first year of their primary school education, and 224 students quit secondary school without finishing the first year.
The OECS statistics show that the primary school drop-out rate in SVG during the period under review was 0.4 per cent. This compares 0.7 per cent in St. Kitts and Nevis, the highest, and zero per cent in Grenada, the lowest.
However, SVG’s secondary school drop-out rate, 2.8 per cent, was the highest in the sub-region — compared to 0.8 per cent in Grenada, the lowest.
“We are having too many drop-outs and something needs to be done to remedy these matters,” Eustace said.
“Having put the biggest amount of money involved, having the lowest teacher-pupil ratio, what are we doing wrong? What is this revolution that we have that makes us end up worse off despite the attempts to put as much money as possible into the system? What is going wrong? That you don’t hear about.
“You always hear about Education Revolution, but now we are talking about the Education Revolution results. What has the high expenditures done for the students? What has the fact that we have the most trained teachers done for the education system in St. Vincent and the Grenadines? All these are questions we must now ask,” he said.
Eustace said he was not criticising the expenditure on education.
“I am criticizing the results that we have received.
“… The government has to be complemented for the amount of money it has put into education, but you are not getting the results,” he said.
I-Witness News was unsuccessful in its repeated attempt on Monday to reach Chief Education Officer Lou-Anne Gilchrist for a comment on the statistics.
We were told in separate calls to her office that she was in meetings or was unable to take the call.
In one of the conversations, her office asked about the nature of our inquiry, but up to publication time she had not returned our call, as requested.