Baksh defends automatic student promotions

Minister of Education Shaik Baksh is defending a new government policy to promote every child at the nursery, primary and secondary levels irrespective of their academic performance, saying grade repetition was leading to more school dropouts.

Addressing questions posed by GAP/ROAR MP Everall Franklin in the National Assembly on Thursday, Baksh said there was no evidence to support the continuation of repetition. Citing a UNESCO report, he stated that a significant body of research indicates that the negative effects of repetition largely outstripped the expected benefits. “Contrary to popular belief, repeating a grade does not help students gain ground academically and has a negative impact on social adjustment and self esteem,” he quoted the report.

Baksh added that repeating early grades frequently led to further retention later and dropouts. “A report by the Caribbean Council on Adolescent Development estimated that a single grade retention increases the likelihood of dropouts by 40 to 50%; a second one raises the risk to 90%,” Baksh said, adding that this was being experienced in Guyana.

Franklin’s question was based on a circular issued by the ministry to nursery, primary and secondary schools in September last year which stated that promotions would be automatic. According to the circular, the emphasis of every school must be on prevention and early intervention rather than waiting until chronic patterns of school failure and frustration become evident. As a result, it added, the most competent teachers must be placed in year one and grades one and seven.  The circular also stated that all education departments must ensure that a “strong remediation programme is implemented at each school or cluster of schools during the August vacation in reading, English and Mathematics to correct the relevant deficiencies.”

Baksh assured that children will not be promoted “willy-nilly,” since there are strong remediation programmes in place and an analysis of the results are ongoing.  He said the new policy will affect the secondary level more than the others, since repetition at the primary level was officially discontinued several years ago. However, he acknowledged that there were still a few instances of primary students being made to repeat in the outlying areas.

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