A tribune for our education system Viewpoint
By Hydar Ally
Guyana Chronicle
September 3, 2003

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Guyana continues to improve on its overall performance at the CXC/GCE examinations both at the ordinary and at the advanced proficiencies. Everyday one open the Newspapers, there are glowing reports of students who have excelled at this years exams. There is the case of a Queen's College student who has the distinction of passing fourteen subjects at the CXC exams, including eleven grade Ones. This is, I believe the first time that a student has secured passes in so many subjects at one sitting since the examinations were written some thirty years ago.

I can hear the critics in the background saying: so what, one swallow does not make a summer. What about the hundreds who fail to make it even at the minimum pass grade? And. So the critics would ask, how much of the success is the result of formal schooling as against the so-called "extra lessons" to which students are exposed even as early as in the primary grades.

It would be na´ve of me not to give credit to all those who contributed to those outstanding performances, including extra-lessons teacher although it is my considered view however, that the contribution of extra lessons are often given undue prominence in order to downplay the contribution made by the formal education system.

There are those who are so blinded by prejudice against the current administration that they will always find reason to "explain" such extraordinary levels of student performance. Not a word will be said of the systemic variables such as teacher education and training, more textbooks and instructional materials in the classroom, enhanced and more child-friendly school environment and curricula reform and so on.

Such people cannot be helped. For them, anything that makes the government looks good must be down played even thought the evidence suggests differently. They speak ad nauseum of "education being in a state of crisis" even though almost every Secondary School in the country is showing a consistent trend of enhanced student performance.

The fact is that regardless how one may wish to interpret the figures, any objectives analysis will reveal that students are doing much better today at local and overseas examinations than in previous years. What is even more encouraging is the spread of the results, which is much more evenly distributed. Rural schools and schools in hinterland regions are throwing up impressive results which is indicative of an enhanced quality of education at the systemic level.

The fact that an increasing number of students are provided with an opportunity to sit the examinations makes the number of passes even more significant. More students are not writing the CXC examinations thanks to the implementation of Universal Secondary Education. These are students from Community High Schools and the tops of Primary School who previously were denied the opportunity to sit the CXC examinations. Under the programme of Universal Secondary Education now underway, Community High Schools and Primary tops are being phased out paving the way for every child to be awarded places at General Secondary Schools which will allow them to sit the CXC examinations.

It is against this background that the performance levels of students have to be seen. The records will show that not only are student performance getting better from year to year but a significantly higher number sitting the examination as compared to previous years.

This is no time for patting oneself on the back, but I believe that is important to set the context right if only to correct perceptions of decline in education standards as is being projected by some commentators. The bottom line is that there is a positive correlation between student performance and resource allocation to the education sector. The decline in education levels had to do primarily with woeful under-financing of the sector under the former administration and even though there has been substantial injection of resources into the sector since the assumption to office of the current PPP/Civic administration, Guyana is still behind in terms of per capital spending of education when compared to countries such as Barbados, Trinidad, St. Lucia, Jamaica and others.

I will like to take the opportunity of this viewpoint to congratulate all those students who excelled at this year's CXC/ GCE examinations.