EYEWITNESS: Primary… education stresses

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News that the Grades 2, 4 and 9 Assessments have been cancelled precipitated in your Eyewitness a wave of nostalgia for the days when he was just a knobby-kneed lad in short pants. He, of course, knew nothing about “assessments”, but “tests” – starting from “Lil and Big ABC” all the way through “First to Six Standard”.

He was in the batch completing Fourth Standard when the Government decided to convert Fifth Std and up to “Forms 1, 2 and 3”. It’s left to you, dear readers, to find out what year that happened and figure out how old your (coy) Eyewitness is!

It was in 4th Std that one took the “Common Entrance” – introduced in 1960 – to try to get into the elite schools of Queen’s College and Bishops’ in Georgetown. In
England – our model – these exams were known as “Eleven Plus”, indicating the age when most kids sat them. They’d been introduced there since 1944! But, in reality, here in Guyana, only those kids who could pay a fee to the headmaster, who would typically prepare those students – placed into a “Scholarship Class” – were allowed to take the exam. So, it wasn’t really a “Common Entrance” for all the poorer kids, who were left to face the caning that propelled one through school then.

The “Common Entrance” was supposedly eliminated in 2003, when the Assessments at Grades 2, 4, and 6 were introduced. By then, all the students of Grade 6 – the old Std 4 – were eligible…but the ubiquity of the private lessons syndrome again made that illusory. The explanation for the change in name was that the exams were going to be used to “assess” the students with a view towards a more focused, individualised intervention in the next class. It was also claimed that it would be less stressful. Ha!

Your Eyewitness could never understand this latter rationale, since the Grade 6 Assessment was still used to determine entrance into the elite and other ranked secondary schools. In fact, the stress factor was expanded, since the Grades 2 and 4 “Assessments” scores were added to the Grade 6’s!! Can you imagine the anxiety of kids at the age of 7, 9, and 11, knowing their performances at such an early age would determine their chances of success in life?? And we do know that there’s such a correlation, don’t we?

So, your Eyewitness asks again: why can’t we have all our high schools brought up to the same level of the so-called elite schools in Georgetown, with similarly trained teachers and other facilities?? After all, those “elite schools” are only “elite” because they get the cream of the 14,000+ Grade 6 cohort.

Let’s get with the times!

…priming on corruption

There’s a lot of wisdom in the folk saying “It takes a thief to catch a thief”. Guess that’s what the PNC had in mind when they selected former Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson, to Chair the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

Why else would they insist he remain there against the PPP demanded he be replaced by another PNC member? They point to several undenied dealings (runnings?) during his tenure – absolutely proving his morals are calloused, to say the least – such as soliciting a diamond-studded bracelet and various and sundry bedroom furniture. Your Eyewitness won’t mention the new $143M DHB design bid scandal, since that’s sub judice.

All of this reminiscing was brought on by Patterson’s utterances on the gas-to-shore project following the PNC’s meeting with ExxonMobil. Adding to his leader’s anodyne statement on the flaring, Patterson insisted that the US$800M – “notional” according to Jagdeo – is “money for the boys”. Which part of “notional” doesn’t he understand?

Or does he congenitally see graft opportunities everywhere?

…crimes

No matter what the Police say, your Eyewitness is persuaded that primary person-to-person crimes are spiralling out of control – just like COVID 19.

Both have to be controlled through condign actions – and not through lies, damned lies and statistics.