Education Minister cites need to refocus school’s curriculum

Education Minister, Anthony Boatswain has once again expressed concern with the quality of education and the output from both the primary and secondary schools as students prepare to write the upcoming Caribbean Primary Exit Assessment (CPEA) and the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) in May.

According to Minister Boatswain, Grenada’s education system is plagued by “an unacceptable high failure rate” which is a cause for concern.

In delivering his Ministerial statement during last week Friday’s sitting of the House of Representatives, Minister Boatswain pointed to the statistics, in which he highlighted the need for improvement in both the performance of the students and teachers.

He noted the increase in the CPEA pass rate from “40 to 50 per cent”, saying that the ultimate expectation is to “see quality students entering the secondary schools this year.”

“Based on the 2014 CPEA examination, we have 89.5 per cent of the students who registered achieving a 40 per cent pass rate or more,” Minister Boatswain told the House, and suggested “alternatives means” of education for those who cannot meet the requirements at the time.

As it relates to the CSEC, the Minister said, “while we tend to glorify those who receive 10, 11, 12 subjects we tend to ignore those who do not perform at all.”

“The statistics is a bit frightening,” he said, noting that “45 per cent” of the 1006 students who wrote the 2014 exams “received one subject or none at all.”

The Education Minster linked the solution to this problem as well as the “above average drop out rate” that is noticed at the secondary school level to the quality of teaching provided at the primary schools.

“This must be a reflection of the quality of teaching…we have too many of our teachers in the school system who are not qualified to teach,” Minister Boatswain asserted adding “and this is something we have to correct.”

He pointed to the “almost 100 (teachers that) do not have the basic qualification to be teachers based on the Education Act (2002),” as recently revealed by the Cabinet-appointed high level committee chaired by former educator, Jeanette Dubois that interviewed teachers as part of efforts to regularise their status.

According to Minister Boatswain, “the performance of our students in the science subjects is equally frightening”, and that “the average pass rate in Mathematics is about 30 per cent and when we look at the other science subjects physics – 13 per cent, chemistry –18 per cent…”

“Mr Speaker, we are talking about building an economy based on Science and Technology and Scientific research but when we have such poor performances in those critical areas we have to wonder what the future of our country would be,” he told Parliament.

Minister Boatswain also suggested that the island’s education system needs to “refocus the school’s curriculum” in such a way as to place more concentration on “science and technology and technical and vocational education”.

“…We also have to look at the quality of teacher”, declared the Member of Parliament for the rural St. Patrick West Constituency.

Meanwhile, approximately 300 temporary teachers could end up jobless by the time the Education Ministry completes the Teacher’s regularisation process due to the fact that based on the assessment conducted by the Dubois committee to date only 200 posts remain as vacant.

Currently, there are approximately 500 temporary teachers in the school system.

Addressing the issue, Minister Boatswain told the House this “means that the pool from which we have to draw to fill those vacancies will be smaller…in the long run there would be an excess as the pool of temporary teachers get smaller and the number of vacant positions increase, over a period of time we are anticipating that most of those temporary teachers who are qualified would be incorporated into the regular teaching profession.”

Additionally he said, it is anticipated that “the long delays that were experienced last year with the payment of teachers will be minimised both as a result of the temporary teachers becoming permanent and also because of the Ministry of Education working along with the Ministry of Finance and the Department of Public Administration and the Public Service Commission.”

Minister Boatswain said it is anticipated that those problems would not arise with the commencement of the new school year in September because by then a significant number of teachers would have been made permanent.

“We have come to a solution whereby the reason for the delays in the past would no longer exist”, he remarked.

The Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT) has been pushing the government to solve the issue of the temporary teachers in the system.

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