Now that congratulations to our top students at the CSEC are out of the way, it is time once again to look at the overall figures to highlight areas our policy makers in the educational sector may have to delve into. The ministry already identified the continued improvement at English language but a fall off in the passes at Mathematics with 38.3% compared to last year’s 45.07%. This latter result it very disheartening after it had been thought we had turned the corner with improvements in the last couple of years after an abysmal low of 28%. Since Mathematics is one of the five subjects necessary for matriculation out of secondary school, we know that 61.7% of the 12,809 graduates in 2016 have not matriculated.
The administration, as did its PPPC predecessor, has placed great emphasis on the STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) being the foundation of the education that is necessary to develop Guyana on a sustainable trajectory. However, competency in Mathematics is a prerequisite for all the other three subjects in STEM: as mathematics goes, so will STEM. Physics is also a linchpin for Technology and Engineering, which would be the “Applied” subjects in the group and the ministry announced that passes moved from 44.81% in 2015 to 55.83% this year. This sounds very encouraging but it would be interesting to find out how many students actually wrote the subject: we can be sure it will not be high.
But while it has become commonplace for girls to routinely outperform boys at CSEC, there is a related statistic that has remained constant for the last decade at least, but has not elicited much comment: 28% more girls write CSEC than boys. In 2016, the ratio of girls to boys was 8142: 4677; 2015 – 8100: 4506; and in 2014 – 8837: 4887. Since the Guyanese youth population in the cohort that is graduating with CSEC’s are equally distributed between females and males, the question is what has happened to the more than 3300 boys annually?
If these young gentlemen did not even write a single subject, it has to mean they dropped out of school. Has the Ministry been keeping tabs on these youths, or are they allowed to join the unemployed, underemployed or criminally employed populace without question or comment?
Another statistic that jumps out from the announcements of the last three years with even the most cursory examination is the rising number of candidates entered for CSEC from private schools. This year it increased to 37% from 33% the year before. Since these private schools charge very substantial tuition fees, the numbers indicate that a significant percentage of Guyanese parents have lost faith in the public school system – apart from the “elite” schools in Georgetown – to provide a satisfactory education to their children. It also means that the egalitarian thrust at independence to have all our children be given an equal opportunity to get such an education has been abandoned.
The new Minister of Education trenchantly criticized the previous dispensation and promised much at his appointment – but has delivered very little since. He promising to launch a Commission of Inquiry since August 2015 to examine the education system and make recommendations in line with the criticisms. But the COI’s report is now promised to be ready in December.
Let us hope that the delay was because of the thoroughness of the examination and the comprehensiveness of the suggested remedy.