Fri 8th Jul 2016
There was a Senator of the ULP regime who was beating goatskin drums last week, as if she was holding a BOLO, in the SVG House of Assembly, claiming that under the ULP regime 20 primary schools gained a 100% pass in the SVG 2016 Primary School Exit Exams. She saw it as a fantastic achievement.
Under the Common Entrance Examination, year after year, there was a high failure rate. The ULP regime was afraid to publish the Common Entrance Exam results of individual schools, in particular, for schools in the constituency of North Central Windward.
So what has changed? It seems clear that the primary school exit exam has become much easier in the Caribbean. The United Kingdom, China and Singapore have all raised their standard of school examinations.
The UK was starting to fall behind their counterparts in education. Nicky Morgan, the UK Minister for Education, says that the tests for 11 years old in the UK have been made tougher, based on a new curriculum and the best evidence from across the world. She says that politicians trumpeting ever-rising test results, at the expense of high standards, is entirely wrong.
Nicky Morgan, the UK Minister for Education, says the UK has simply raised the bar in education on what counts as good enough. No wonder the UK has the 5th biggest economy in the world.
In the Caribbean, policy makers have taken the opposite stance, dropping Common Entrance Exams and introducing an easier exam to fool themselves that education has improved.
It is sad and shameless that ULP regime politicians praise themselves on these results and are happy to make themselves look good in the short-term, whilst undermining children’s education in the long-term. They are playing politics with children’s future.
A large number of parents in SVG have complained to the Leader of SVG Green Party, Mr Ivan O’Neal, that they cannot afford to send their children to pre-schools, as they are unemployed and not able to pay fees for pre-school.
Pisa tests - the Programme for International Student Assessment - have become the leading international benchmark. China's results in international education tests are "remarkable".
These tests, held every three years by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, measure pupils' skills in reading, numeracy and science. The findings indicate that China has an education system that is overtaking many Western countries.
In China, the idea is so deeply rooted that education is the key to mobility and success. The results for disadvantaged pupils in China would be the envy of any Western country. It is said that China’s Pisa results reveal a picture of a society investing individually and collectively in education.
People say you can only improve an education system over 25 years - but look at Poland and Singapore, which have improved in a very short time. Caribbean education policy makers have taken a wrong turn in making the primary school exit exam easier.
When Caribbean children grow up, many will find it hard to compete against children in the global job market from other countries that have better education systems.
In the 2016 SVG Budget, the ULP only put EC$11 million towards education, which is only 1.2% of the total budget of EC$912.8 million.
Making exams easier will not help Caribbean children in the long run. Politicians in SVG need to rethink education.