Once again, the children of Guyana have suffered the consequences of the traumatizing and obsolete National Grade 6 Assessment, known as Common Entrance. Every year, Guyanese children at the tender age of 9 to 11 years, are forced to sit a series of exams which will ultimately decide their fate, competing with each other for the coveted so-called “good schools”. Those that do not do well in these exams are condemned to what we in Guyana call “bad schools”. It is quite simply a hideous system.
Every year we watch on at families ashamed to acknowledge their children’s results, and children who have their self-esteem and confidence shattered as a result of being labelled winners or losers We are told that our education system is a meritocracy – in other words, those that work hard will do well and get a “good school”. Of course, it is far from a level playing field. The sons and daughters of the wealthy, who are well nourished, well housed, have electricity, access to books and computers, will of course fare better than the children of the poor, who are under-nourished and hungry at school, often don’t even have transportation money to get to school, have no access to internet, books etc. Inevitably, there will be one or two children from poor families that beat the odds and make it to Queen’s College and Bishops’ High School. This will be held up as a shining example that it can be done on the basis of merit. However, the fact that there are so few exceptions to the rule, simply reinforces the self-evident fact, that there is most definitely a high correlation between debilitating poverty and poor educational achievement.
The uncomfortable truth of the matter, that is rarely addressed, perhaps because it is so morally repugnant, is that Common Entrance is primarily designed to maintain a status- quo built on social and economic elitism. It is a way of sifting the rich from the poor. It is a left over from our colonial past and it serves the present neo-colonial arrangement, since it grooms and reproduces a certain class to manage the system left behind by our erstwhile colonial masters.
Guyana’s reactionary ruling clique (the 1%), with their elitist view of everything, including education, actually express shock and horror at the very idea of giving every child the right to a quality education, regardless of their parent’s socio-economic status. They are so crass in their thinking that they simply cannot imagine allowing all the children of Guyana to go to a “good school” and have a chance to reach their full potential. Historian and educator, John Hendrik Clarke summed it up best when he said, “Powerful people cannot afford to educate the people that they oppress, because once you are truly educated, you will not ask for power. You will take it.”
Richie Spice said, “If education is the key then why they make it so expensive for we?”: And therefore so inaccessible? Why indeed?
One of the first things an OVP government would do is abolish Common Entrance. Guyanese children would attend the secondary school closest to where they live, and every school would be transformed into not only a “good school”, but an “excellent school”.
Imagine a Guyana where every child has the right to free, quality education from nursery to university. Believe me, this is not an impossible dream.
In the words of Dub Poet, Mutabaruka “What a day when the pendulum swings”.
Gerald A. Perreira
Organization for the Victory of the People (OVP)