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—says Nicolette Henry
Former Minister of Education, Dr. Nicolette Henry said while the Education Sector is ever evolving, any decision to eliminate the National Grade Six Assessment (NGSA) will require a national consultation with key stakeholders, as well as due diligence.
It was Education Minister Priya Manickchand, who in recent days, disclosed that the Ministry of Education was exploring whether to scrap NGSA, and direct its attention to the equal delivery of education. Minister Manickchand, according to local reports, said the assessments were placing undue pressure on pupils.
In 2006, NGSA replaced the Common Entrance Examination, placing major emphasis on “assessment” rather than “examination.” The current system requires pupils, at the primary level, to take the assessments in Grades Two, Four and Six in the four subject areas – English Language, Mathematic, Social Studies and Science – before being placed in secondary schools.
In an interview with Village Voice News, Dr. Henry – an A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) Member of Parliament – said any decision regarding a national assessment such as NGSA cannot be done overnight.
“Whatever mechanism is determined must be one that is agreed upon by all stakeholders and it must have very low levels of subjectivity. We must also ensure that due diligence is done, we must,” Dr. Henry told this newspaper.
In making the announcement, Minister Manickchand had placed emphasis on the equal delivery of education but according to Dr. Henry there is no such concept in education. “Education runs on two tracks – quality and access,” she posited.
She said the current system allows for children to be placed in secondary schools based on their performance during the assessments. Dr. Henry said too that Minister Manickchand’s announcement leaves more questions than answers particularly with regards to the method that would be used to place students in secondary schools should there be a change.
“What we need to ensure is that when we are going to place students, whatever mechanism you use it must reduce any opportunity for biases…There must also be a method to get them there. At the primary level we don’t screen to go into primary but there is still a methodology that is used. So therefore, we still would need to know what is the methodology; and is it a case of putting the cart before the horse,” Dr. Henry reasoned.
She added: “You are talking about all schools delivering similar quality education, but have you done the work to ensure that that can happen within this particular timeframe. You just can’t wake up a morning and do that.”
Dr. Henry said based on information received, the proposal may have stemmed from a personal interest however, it is hoped that good sense prevails. “We would ask that good judgment prevail, and that people do not use the opportunity to advance their own narrow self-interest,” Dr. Henry said.