During the presentation of the 2017 Budget on Monday, Minister of Finance Winston Jordan revealed that of the 14,386 students who wrote the 2016 National Grade Six Assessment (NGSA) only 14% or 2,014 students were able to achieve a passing grade in Mathematics and less than 50% achieved passes in English.
Jordan stressed that these results represent a crisis since “over 12,000 of our children were not numerate, while more than half of those writing English could not sufficiently comprehend our official language to attain a 50 percent score.”
This is first time the government has revealed the pass rate for these subject areas at the 2016 sitting of the examination. The last time the pass rate for Grade Six Mathematics was made public was in 2014 when 31.52% of the 15,227 candidates who sat the examinations that year achieved 50% or more in the subject area.
In October a release from the Ministry of Presidency while not referencing the pass rate had said that Cabinet examined the “unsatisfactory” results as a matter of “extreme urgency and grave national importance” and had called on the Ministry of Education and its technical advisors to identify all appropriate steps needed to remedy this situation.
In the release Cabinet noted that for many years Guyana has “consistently failed to achieve acceptable pass rates” and acknowledged that this year’s examination which was designed by the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) exposed “even more the weakness of the previous approach to education adopted by the Ministry of Education….” with its “increased focus on reasoning and decreased emphasis on retention.”
In response to these results Cabinet earlier this month approved the expenditure of $48.6 million for the implementation of a seven-point strategy labelled the “Emergency Education intervention for improved performance in Mathematics by students in Grade Six.”
The approved intervention which is expected to address critical issues in the teaching and learning of mathematics will target the preparation and administration of a diagnostic assessment of pupils in the hinterland region before training.
It will also address the training of teachers in content and methodology; the facilitating of fortnightly cluster meetings in all regions; the recruitment of math coordinators and monitors; the training of officers and school administrators to supervise the teaching of mathematics; the enhancement of public relations and parental involvement in the project and the acquisition of support material for the pupils as part of the project.
Though the ministry has already begun executing this programme Jordan stressed on Monday that the government has to ensure they “properly diagnose problems and apply solutions that seek to structurally change the mode, scale, and regional appropriateness of interventions.”