Speaking for themselves - CXC results 2000

Ian on Sunday
Stabroek News
December 17, 2000

I sometimes think that people do not really believe how far Guyana has slipped down the educational league in the region. They think that Guyana could not possibly have once had the best educational system and teaching standards in the Caribbean. They think that decline has been greatly exaggerated. They see headlines in the newspapers about the achievements of a few top students and are led into thinking that things are not so bad after all.

They probably believe that those who lament the rotten state of education in the country are either maliciously inclined or suffering from the well-known delusion which afflicts older folk leading them to think that golden years were always in the past.

I am not maliciously inclined but I confess I am old enough to have the strange impression that in days gone by all manner of things were better - rum (especially Houston Blue Label) superior, girls prettier, music more full of melody, dancing smoother and more subtly erotic, Kanhai the best batsman the world would ever see, standards higher, service prompter and more courteous, people less disobliging, the railway a godsend and the curse of the minibus not laid upon the land, the rivers cleaner and the great forests more securely green, even the stars sparkled brighter in less polluted skies, and indeed whatever you can think of was better than now - "why, all the ground we trod upon was holy then." I am also objective enough to realize that such perceptions are an older generation's prerogative but not necessarily the whole truth. So when I express the belief that educational standards are nowhere near what they used to be I am perfectly prepared to be contradicted.

Indeed I would be very pleased to have this belief corrected by a specialist in the field. I make absolutely no claim to be an expert in education.

I am no more than an ordinary concerned parent, a layman taking an interest in what I consider by far the most important development activity in a poor nation like our own. My research is not deep or thorough or original.

I keep expecting to see the fruits of some really definitive study conducted by the Ministry of Education or the University of Guyana into educational standards past and present which would form the basis of a national debate on what emergency measures should now be prepared and implemented.

In the absence of such a study all one can do is pick up what one can here and there. For instance, there was the survey conducted three or four years ago which found that 89% of out of school youths in Guyana aged 14 to 25, making up 24% of the population, were operating at "a low to moderate level of functional literacy".

That means that 89% of young people in this vital category possessed a literacy level "below what is needed to function effectively in the Guyanese society."

Then there is the recent survey among 9, 10 and 11 year olds which revealed that 36% of them were unable to recognize two-and three-letter words, meaning they cannot read.

The Minister of Education himself described the situation as being tragic and alarming.

God knows what he would say if the survey were to be extended to 12, 13, and l4 year olds and over.

And then there are the CXC results. Each year I try to make a comparative survey of these results to assess how we are progressing. This year I am much later than usual because a computer glitch at CXC headquarters in Barbados delayed the tabulation of Caribbean comparative statistics for 2000.

They are available to me now. I reproduce some of the tables in this column without comment. [please note: no table was provided by Stabroek News]

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