Manickchand ties decline in CSEC pass rates to COVID-19 pandemic

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…warns that ‘soft approach’ to vaccination will not continue

Though Guyana has topped the Caribbean in 20 of the 33 subjects written at the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) Examination with 75% of its students receiving Grades 1-3 when compared to the Region’s 68%, Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand said the decline in some pass rates, which she linked to the COVID-19 pandemic and the elongated electoral crisis, is a cause for concern.

Based on statistics released by the Chief Education Officer (CEO), Dr. Marcel Hutson, outstanding performances were recorded in Agricultural Science (Double Award) with 93.14% of the students receiving Grades 1-3; Information Technology (92.59%), Physical Education and Sports (99.28%) and Theatre Arts, 100%.

Additionally, improved performance was evident in four subjects and remained constant in six subjects.

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However, the country’s pass rates in English A and Mathematics declined when compared to 2020. According to the Education Ministry, English A declined from 77.76% in 2020 to 67.72% in 2021 while Mathematics moved from a pass rate of 43% in 2019 and 48.36% in 2020 to 31.6% in 2021. It was noted too that performances declined in all the sciences except for Human and Social Biology. Biology moved from 83.47 % in 2020 to 75.39% in 2021. Chemistry recorded a pass rate of 60.94% in 2021 as against 71.6 % in 2020. Physics moved from a pass rate of 80.63% in 2020 to 61.99% in 2021. Integrated Science recorded a pass rate of 68.58% in 2021 as against 79.75% in 2020.

Subjects in the business cognate in addition to Office Administration and Electronic Documentation Preparation and Management recorded a decline in performance as well.

As she revealed the results of the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) and the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE), alongside the Chief Education on Friday, Minister Manickchand said while Guyana, by topping the Caribbean in 20 of the 33 subjects, has done extra ordinary well in the circumstance, can do much better should there be a return to the classroom.

It was posited that the decline in performance in a number of subject areas has highlighted the need for Guyana to return to face-to-face learning in full.

Minister Manickchand said 2021 has taught many lessons, among them, that the sole use of technology for education delivery is not as effect as one would have thought, not necessarily because of the lack of infrastructure and or poor internet services, but because there are serious limitations and distractions.

The Education Minister said in the interest of the nation’s children, there must be a safe return to the classroom but that would only be possible if teachers, parents and students are fully vaccinated against the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19).

“We must advise ourselves and avail ourselves individually and collectively of the necessity to get vaccinated and use the vaccines that are available to the government,” she said.

SOFT APPROACH CANNOT CONTINUE
Minister Manickchand warned that the “relatively soft approach” initially utilized to encourage vaccination at the level of the Education Ministry cannot continue forever.

“If we are to arrest this kind of decline that we spoke about…We have to make sure that sensible action is taken and the scientists and medical people around the world have said very clearly that the sensible action has to be to get as many persons vaccinated as possible,” she reasoned.

According to her, the Education Ministry, in an effort to increase the number of teachers inoculated, put special arrangements in place to have them receive various vaccines including the first and second doses of the Sputnik V vaccine, even when there was a shortage, and now Pfizer.

However, she again warned that there is going to be a “clock” activated when that “soft approach” to vaccination will end. To date, approximately 63% of the teachers in Guyana have been vaccinated, however, Guyana needs to acquire 85% vaccination rate in order to achieve herd immunity for there to be a return to normalcy.

OTHER APPROACHES
Aside from the need for face-to-face learning, Minister Manickchand said the Education Ministry will be assessing the performances of schools and by extension regions to determine what other systems can be put in place to improve students’ performance.

According to the Education Ministry, 47 students including the country’s top performer, Queen’s College Sarena Aruna Razak, secured 12 or more Grade Ones at the 2021 CSEC Exams. Razak secured 19 Grade Ones, 2 Grade Twos and 1 Grade Three – outperforming the more than 9,800 students who took the exams.

The students were drawn Queen’s College, Anna Regina Secondary, Saraswati Vidya Nikitan, J.C Chandisingh High School, I.S.A Islamic School, Tagore High School, Berbice High, Abram’s Zuil, Skeldon Secondary, St. Ignatius Secondary and Marian Academy.

However, Minister Manickchand said while a percentage of the students received 12 or more Grade Ones, there were some who received none. “I am worried that in the announcement of top performers with 12 or more Grade Ones, there are entire regions that are not presenting themselves on this list, and that has to be cause for concern,” she said.

Given the need for improvements, Minister Manickchand said various strategies and techniques will be used across the region, however, she was keen on noting that “mass broad brushes” will not be used as the needs of schools vary.

“You can’t apply the same rules to a Queen’s College in Georgetown…to Aishalton deep in the southern part of the country – that will not work for various reasons,” she said. She assured that the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) as part of its agenda, will deliver education “equally and equitably.”



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