Grade Six ex­ams: The up­sets and the fall­out

Stabroek News Sunday - - WEEKEND MAGAZINE -

“When my daugh­ter write she get the low­est school in Ge­orge­town. I couldn’t be­lieve it, is like I went in shock…,” she said qui­etly.

It has been five years but as I looked at her the pain of how she felt when she re­ceived her child’s re­sults was still ev­i­dent. She is a 38-year-old mother of three and had just re­ceived her sec­ond child’s National Grade Six Ex­am­i­na­tion re­sults and while he per­formed 100% bet­ter than his sis­ter, the mother was still some­what dis­ap­pointed. He was al­ways a high flyer in his school and it was ex­pected that he would earn a place at one of the city’s top schools; in­stead he is to at­tend a Grade B school.

“He not both­er­ing though and a kinda happy for that, but I think he coulda do bet­ter. He use to work hard though, he would study and so and I know he will do well,” the mother said of her son’s re­sults.

With the Grade Six ex­am­i­na­tion re­sults just out and all the com­men­tary about the top 1% be­ing cel­e­brated while the other chil­dren are made to feel less than, I de­cided to speak to a par­ent who had just re­ceived her child’s re­sult. She agreed but did not want to be named be­cause her daugh­ter is now a teenager and she did not want her to feel em­bar­rassed.

“I know when I get de re­sults that me daugh­ter couldn’t go there. I was vex and an­gry but like when I look at the child I couldn’t pun­ish she and send she there. The school don’t have no grade when I look at the grad­ing duh is de only school with no grade,” she said pas­sion­ately.

“Now tell me how I coulda send me daugh­ter there?” she asked, not ex­pect­ing an an­swer.

“Leh me tell you some­thing is not as if de child couldn’t read or write and when she write grade two and grade four ex­ams she name went up on de school board be­cause she do good so when I get grade six re­sults it was a shock.”

I have spo­ken to her daugh­ter on sev­eral oc­ca­sions and the child is very ar­tic­u­late and could have been at­tend­ing any top city school.

“So I had to fork out money and send me child to a pri­vate school,” she con­tin­ued. “It was not easy but I tek one look at de school she get and I know it was a no, no. No teach­ers noth­ing and it cramp. I just feel sorry for dem chil­dren wah have to go there hon­estly,” she said.

“Look I can’t read and write and when I go any­where, and I have to write me name and ad­dress and suh is me daugh­ter use to help me. So, as I tell you, is not like deh child was a dunce child, is not like she couldn’t read and write so how she get dah school only God alone know. Is like I think she blank out in de ex­ams or some­thing. Some­thing had to hap­pen.

“But no­body don’t look at how de chil­dren use to per­form is like dem just ban­ish them, when you give dem cer­tain kinds a school, is like you ban­ish­ing them be­cause what kind of teach­ing dem get­ting? So, if a child par­ent can’t af­ford to send them to a pri­vate school den they have to lef right there and what chance de child get­ting at CXC or if dem even meet­ing CXC class?” she asked.

“Well now I wait­ing for the CXC re­sults. She write eight sub­jects and maybe she would just get five be­cause I have to tell you de child lil lazy. I could say dah now be­cause she old enough to do bet­ter but she don’t like study and think that she could just wake up and write exam and pass. But she would get a few sub­jects. I have no doubt about that. But is what she would do after.

“… Peo­ple must look into when dem chil­dren strug­gle and write CXC and dem get a few sub­jects wah hap­pen­ing to them. Some a dem get the sub­jects and can’t even get a job and dem par­ents can’t af­ford to send them fur­ther. You see how poor peo­ple can’t mek it in this coun­try?

“I is not no­body with any big ed­u­ca­tion, but I think they should change how dem does do the grade six ex­ams. I don’t know what to tell them to do but dem can’t be putting all dem pres­sure on dem lil chil­dren. Is like if dem chil­dren study­ing for univer­sity or some­thing,” she said.

I could not have agreed more. The child who per­forms the poor­est goes to the school that per­forms the poor­est, the school that does not have any con­ducive learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment. Then five years down the road they are ex­pected to per­form bet­ter. There is no doubt that the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem in Guyana is skewed.

Par­ents do not help the sit­u­a­tion with the im­mense pres­sure they place on the small shoul­ders of their chil­dren. Threat­en­ing them at times with harm should they not per­form to their (the par­ents’) ex­pec­ta­tions. In my line of work, I have seen many chil­dren cry un­con­trol­lably be­cause they did not get a ‘good school.’

In my time when I wrote what we called Com­mon En­trance I am not sure if there was this amount of pres­sure on chil­dren. Since I grew up in a re­mote area and there was only a slim pos­si­bil­ity of me at­tend­ing a sec­ondary school, there was no pres­sure when I wrote the ex­am­i­na­tion. In fact, I can’t re­call the school even hav­ing a grad­u­a­tion ex­er­cise. I did get a place at a sec­ondary school, but my col­leagues and I all knew we were mov­ing on to the sec­ondary depart­ment of our pri­mary school.

Three years later, by a fluke, I got the op­por­tu­nity to at­tend a sec­ondary school and had to start the process from Form One, even though I had passed that stage. I did it and got the op­por­tu­nity to write the CXC ex­am­i­na­tion.

My mother never pres­sured me and even though the dy­nam­ics are slightly dif­fer­ent I am hop­ing that years down the line my chil­dren can say the same thing.

I have watched a bub­bly child who was quick wit­ted re­duced to a child who did not even want to look one in the eyes and barely spoke. I might be wrong, but I be­lieve it had to do with the tremen­dous pres­sure the child was un­der as she ap­proached Grade Six. So con­cerned was I that I ap­proached the child’s mother. She as­sured me that the child was quite okay and that she was not be­ing pres­sured. The ex­am­i­na­tion is over and while I am not sure of the child’s school place­ment I do hope that it was suf­fi­cient enough to ward off any re­mon­stra­tion from the mother.

In­stead of cel­e­brat­ing the top one per­cent—while I agree those chil­dren should be re­warded for their hard work—I be­lieve the pow­ers that be should fo­cus on fix­ing the bro­ken sys­tem and en­sur­ing that all chil­dren, re­gard­less of their place­ment, are given a fair chance.

Let’s look at this year’s per­for­mance. Ac­cord­ing to the statis­tics pro­vided, while English this year saw a rise to 60% it was the only sub­ject in which a pass rate was recorded above 50% as only 46% of the 14,145 stu­dents who sat the ex­ams earned passes in Science and So­cial Stud­ies, while a mere 38% passed Math­e­mat­ics. It is not a pretty pic­ture.

And let’s not for­get what a sym­po­sium on ed­u­ca­tion was told last week; over 40% of the 14,145 stu­dents who wrote the ex­am­i­na­tions would likely not grad­u­ate sec­ondary school.

This was ac­cord­ing to Ed­u­ca­tion Spe­cial­ist Au­drey Ro­drigues and Mon­i­tor­ing and Eval­u­a­tion Spe­cial­ist Michael Gil­lis, in their pre­sen­ta­tion ti­tled “Con­sid­er­a­tion for Ac­cel­er­at­ing At­ten­dance, Par­tic­i­pa­tion and Per­for­mance,” which was de­liv­ered at a Sym­po­sium on Boys’ Ed­u­ca­tion at the Arthur Chung Con­ven­tion Cen­tre. They said that 55% of Guyanese stu­dents grad­u­ate sec­ondary school.

In fact, based on the data pre­sented by the two UNICEF em­ploy­ees, only 47% of Guyanese boys and 57% of girls ma­tric­u­late.

These are damming statis­tics, and this is what the pow­ers that be should be look­ing to fix. There is much work to be done and those at the head have to roll their sleeves up and do what is right.

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