Celebrating 25 years of existence, President’s College basked in the glow of being the number one school in the country as it held its 20th graduation exercise yesterday.
“The College is continuing to deliver quality education to our students despite the many challenges we face”, Principal Yvonette Chichester said. “We have once again demonstrated that we can rise above the odds and maintain excellent performance at examinations despite various constraints”, she added.
With excellent academic performance from the College’s students in the last academic year, Minister of Education, Shaik Baksh praised the school. On the basis of pass rate, “President’s College is ranked number one in the country”, he said. “This speaks well of the administration of the school and the governance of the school”, the minister added, praising teachers as well.
In the cavernous hall of the College’s Administration building, beneath a giant portrait of the school’s founder – the late President LFS Burnham, Chichester inform-ed that the school’s overall percentage pass, Grades One to Three, at the 2010 Carib-bean Secondary Certificate Examinations (CSEC) was 98.9% with each student securing seven subjects and above. Of the 27 subjects written by students, 24 saw 100% passes with Grades One to Three, she said in her Principal’s Report. This year, President’s College was adjudged the Most Improved Senior Secondary School.
The College’s top student at CSEC was Leanna Simon who gained 11 subjects with nine Grade Ones and two Grade Twos. Other outstanding performances included Melissa Joseph, who gained 11 subjects with nine Grade Ones and two Grade Twos; Treasure James- nine subjects with eight Grade Ones and one Grade Two; Shinelle Chalmers – ten subjects with seven Grade Ones and three Grade Twos; and Cynthia Jagnandan – ten subjects with seven Grade Ones and three Grade Twos. James is also the top Hinterland Student.
The top student at the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations (CAPE) was Tamieka Clarke with four subjects followed by Olayne Joseph – four subjects, Tracy Marks – four subjects and Vedika Panday with three subjects. The overall percentage pass at CAPE, Grades One to Five, was 72%. “There is very little which you cannot achieve”, Valedictorian Joseph told the graduands in her Valedictory speech during which she recounted her experience at the school.
Baksh praised the performance of the school in the crucial areas of Mathematics and English Language noting the pass rate of 94% in the former subject compared to the national average of 34% while the College recorded a 98% pass rate in the latter subject compared to a national average of 59%.
As the 55 graduating students celebrated the end of their secondary school life yesterday, Baksh said that there has been no neglect of President’s College. He referred to “naysayers” saying that he has read in the media about the neglect of the school. He said that resource availability has to be taken into account particularly in a country that is now developing economically. According to Baksh, while in 1992, $17.5M was being spent on the school annually; in 2010 this has risen to $200M. “We want to develop President’s College. We want to ensure that it maintain high standards”, but at the same time, there must be the efficient use of resources, he said. He added that the results speak for themselves. Since the College was established, it has done well but change must come, he said.
Noting that in 1985, when the College opened, 65 students were admitted, Baksh said that over the years, a decision to admit top performing hinterland students with 30 students from the interior attending the school presently. A decision was also taken to admit students from surrounding areas provided they have performed to an acceptable standard so as to offer a greater number of Guyanese a chance to benefit from a higher quality of education, he said. The minister said that in the coming years, he hopes to see more students graduating from the College. “This is an institution where government intends to put more and more resources in”, said Baksh.
He noted that the school offers 28 subjects and is the only school in the country that does this. Queen’s College offers 22 subjects, the Minister said. “So when they speak of diluting President’s College, the facts do not say that”, he asserted adding that the school is also leading in offering technical and vocational subjects. “It must go far and wide, President’s College has not been diluted from the kind of institution it was established for in 1985”, Baksh said. He added that the Ministry will ensure that this continues but provision must be made for more and more to benefit.
Earlier, Chichester had lamented the teacher shortage in crucial subject areas as well as challenges being experienced now. She said that there is an urgent need for teachers in Mathematics, Home Economics, Physical Education, Physics and Chemistry. “This need must be met if we are to effectively maintain the quality of education offered at this institution”, the Principal noted. She also said that there is an urgent need to have the playground resuscitated while there are vacancies for two House Parents.
The principal expressed the hope that this academic year those positions would be filled while the playground could be rebuilt and the sporting and games facilities, improved. She also expressed hope that some more computers could be acquired for the Information Technology laboratory; repairs would be done to the classrooms and kitchen and the agriculture sector of the school would be extended.
Chichester also highlighted the successes pointing out that to a great extent, the school is self-sufficient in eggs, chicken, beef and pork and the vegetable farm has been revived. However, for the farm, since it is not fenced, it is constantly menaced by animals.
Baksh, in responding tasked the Chairman of the President’s College Board to ensure that the playground is fixed. He also said that last week, a Mathematics teacher was approved for the school. However, he noted that staff shortages are not confined to President’s College and efforts are being made to train more persons. He noted that there are challenges of equity in secondary education pointing out that while the College has a 94% pass rate in Mathematics, in many schools it is a 10% or 15% or 20% pass rate. The Minister promised to look at the request for the Information Technology laboratory but urged the school’s administration also reach out to the alumni for assistance.
In his charge to the graduands, former student and now Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Local Government, Nigel Dharamlall said that there is no alternative to hard work. “Keep looking until you find your own space where you can be yourself”, he said. He said that graduands of the school question the status quo and never take no for an answer. “Guyana is before you. Be the agents of change in our society”, he said.