Automatic promotion restored for secondary schools

A year after revising an Automatic Promotion policy, the Ministry of Education is reinstating the policy.

In a memo dated July 14, Chief Education Officer Olato Sam instructed heads of schools and other officials to suspend the implementation of Circular No. 2/2014: Automatic Promotion/ Retention of Students to Secondary Schools until further notice. “All students in Secondary Schools will continue to be automatically promoted as per the pre-existing Circular No. 8/2009: Grade Repetition/ Retention and Automatic Promotion,” he said.

“Schools will be given clear instructions regarding action to be taken in relation to this policy in due course,” the memo added.

Last year July, after concerns were raised, the Ministry revised the automatic promotion policy and said that secondary-level students who fail Mathematics and English will no longer be advanced to higher grades. The revision of the policy, which was implemented in 2010 under then Education Minister Shaik Baksh, followed negative feedback from various stakeholders and as well, was an effort to ensure more students qualify for university education.

Education Minister Priya Manickchand said at the time that following consultations held with teachers, students, and parents in more than 30 meetings, a decision has been taken to modify the policy.

She said that the rationale behind the implementation of the policy was to create a system which would mitigate the negative effects of grade repetition.

Such negative effects include a high dropout rate due to embarrassment and the burden on students of having to repeat subjects that they may have excelled in despite failing overall.

It turned out, however, that the policy did not find popularity among parents, teachers, and even the students it was engineered to benefit. These stakeholders, Manickchand had said, expressed a high degree of disapproval for the policy and stated their belief that promotion from one grade to another should be earned and not automatic.

A consultation with these stakeholders prior to the policy’s implementation may have yielded these findings but no such consultations were held.

Asked why the ministry failed to consult the stakeholders who would be affected the most by the policy, Sam, at the time did not say why they were overlooked.

He said though, that the ministry relied on the counsel of experts in the area of education, who all thought that the policy would have been beneficial.

Since the policy’s implementation, many teachers have complained that students have become complacent and lazy. One teacher had told Stabroek News that when he chastised a particular student for not making a good attempt at his school work, the student blatantly said that he would be promoted whether or not he did the work.

Many have argued that the policy, even though implemented for two years, had taken a toll on the attitudes of children, and thus affected the results seen after Carib-bean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) sittings since that time. Sam, however, had said that since no studies were done, such an assessment could not be made.

He had noted, however, that despite the negative implications of the policy and the ensuing negative feedback, the policy of automatic promotion did have some positive effects.

In addition to the reduction of the number of school dropouts seen each year, Sam said that students, not feeling the pressure of having to excel in all subject areas, have been left to focus on the subjects that they do well in and have excelled in these areas at the CSEC examinations.

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