The placement of only one public school student in the top 10 at this year’s National Grade Six Assessment (NGSA) was deemed “radically wrong” by A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) spokesperson for education Amna Ally.
Ally shared strong views with Stabroek News yesterday when questioned about the recent success of private schools over public schools at this year’s NGSA.
“Don’t you think something is radically wrong with the public schools’ programmes?” she asked. “I cannot fathom why the government has not placed more emphasis on public schools to get better results. Something is obviously radically wrong,” she said.
The results of the assessment were released on Thursday and of the 168 candidates that made up the top 1%, close to 100 were private school pupils.
Notable were the achievements of Success Elementary and Mae’s Under 12, which had 20 and 19 students in the top 1%, respectively. Seven of the students in the top 25 were from Success Elementary.
“In the first 10 top students there is only one student from a public school,” Ally said. However, she disputed the notion that private school students were somehow better than public school students. “People contend that the cream goes to the private schools but I do not believe that is so,” she opined. She continued, “I believe in topping children’s abilities and developing their capabilities.”
She further stated that the techniques employed by the private institutes should be emulated by the Ministry of Education.
During a press conference on Thursday, Minister Priya Manickchand explained that a number of factors, including the ability to screen students prior to entry and the ease in dismissing staff, played important roles in the successes of private schools.
However, Ally said, those are no excuses. “If the public schools want to screen children, they can. Nothing is stopping public schools from screening their children,” she said. “The ministry needs to emulate the private schools because obviously they [the private institutes] are seeing results with what they are doing.”
She added that teachers need to be remunerated more and special attention should be paid to children with varying learning abilities. Certain programmes, she said, need to be implemented to equip children with opportunities to improve and “move up”.
Ally believed that the results indicate a severe lack on the part of the Ministry of Education. “I am happy for what the private schools are doing; However, I was in the system of the public school and I believe that it is lacking,” she said. She mentioned areas such as teachers, methodology, and various programmes. She emphasized that something needed to be done.
“They [the Ministry of Education] must get a grip of it,” she stressed. “Something is lacking.”
‘A lot to be done’
Cathy Hughes, of the Alliance for Change (AFC), who commended the efforts of the students and their parents, echoed the sentiments of Ally. She said, the results have revealed a clear distinction between private and public schools.
“What has come out of these results is that it exemplifies the fact that children who are fortunate enough to afford private schools do better,” she said.
In comparison, she noted, the public schools have not fared as well. “It’s worrying if we have the majority of our students going to the public school system and are still not coming out with basic competency in English and Mathematics,” she said. She continued, “There’s a lot to be done. We seem to be spending a lot of money on education but we still have large numbers of students coming out who cannot read and write.”
Though in agreement with Manickchand that the improvements must be applauded regardless of where the students may have come from, Hughes believed that the perspective is a benign one. “You cannot sit back when you’re not achieving 99%,” she emphasized. “When you get to 99% in all schools and when the top schools are unable to hold the amount of high achieving students, then we can truly applaud the education system.”