The CXC results

Stabroek News
December 30, 2000

On page 19A of last Sunday's Weekend Magazine, we reproduced the tables which accompanied Dr Ian McDonald's column entitled, 'Speaking for themselves - CXC results 2000' (December 17, 2000). And speak for themselves they do. With some exceptions, Guyana is simply not entering the number of candidates which it should in comparison with Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica, in particular, even after population differences are taken into account. Of course, the Secondary Schools Reform Project (SSRP) is supposed to take care of that problem, and so by next year we should see healthier figures in terms of numbers of entrants. However, that is not the main problem. We are also performing at a much lower level than the other territories.

Take, for example, the percentage of grade ones obtained in relation to the total number of candidates sitting the exam. (The pattern repeats itself with the grade twos and threes.) In a critical subject area like English A, 5.40 per cent of our examinees secured a grade one, whereas the percentage is 10.88, 22.61 and 21.58 for Jamaica, Barbados and Trindad and Tobago, respectively. In the case of Mathematics, the story is even more depressing. Only 3.47 of our candidates achieved the top grade, as against 4.37 for Jamaica (not much better), 10.31 for Barbados and 12.30 for Trinidad and Tobago.

Of the traditional subject areas covered by Dr McDonald's column, our starring subject, it seems, was Spanish, where we obtained the stunning percentage of 12.50 grade ones, certainly better than Jamaica at 7.36 and almost equalling Barbados at 12.72. Trinidad and Tobago boasted 17.55 per cent of its candidates securing the primary grade. The fly in the ointment in this case was the fact that only 208 students entered for the Spanish exam at all - and this in a nation which fancies that it could become a gateway to Latin America and which has a large Spanish-speaking neighbour to its west.

As in the case of Spanish, Guyanese grade one percentages seemed a little more respectable where English B was concerned. We still compared unfavourably with our neighbours - 9.50 per cent, as against 10.60 per cent for Jamaica, 17.04 per cent for Barbados and 25.01 per cent for Trinidad and Tobago. However, when matched against our 5.40 per cent grade ones for English A, there was cause for some modest congratulations. The problem again was that so few students actually sat the exam - 1274 for English B, as against 5554 for English A. The second English examination deals with the literature of the language as opposed to its technicalities, and it is passing strange that schools do not appear to believe that a good grasp of the nation's mother tongue requires that a candidate be familiar with at least a tiny portion of its literary heritage. Perhaps it is that they do not have the teachers who can teach English Literature any longer.

If the CXC results are anything to go by, we are clearly not on the verge of entering the new technological age any time soon. The Integrated Science and Physics results were nothing to write home about, although where the first of these is concerned, our percentage of grade ones was better than that of Jamaica, and hardly any worse than that of the other two territories. And as for Information Technology, we again did poorly (1.27 per cent of candidates obtained a grade one), but then only 208 candidates entered themselves for the exam in any case. While there may have been minor improvements in the results of some subject areas over last year, there clearly has been no quantum leap; our major Caricom neighbours are still outperforming us. The real test of the success of secondary educational policy, however, will not come until next year, when the students who have participated in the SSRP pilot project sit their CXCs. Only then will we know if we are making genuine advances, or if our policy-makers have to go back to the drawing board.

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