Poor grades due to flawed system

sherieholder, sherieholder@nationnews.com

Added 26 October 2012

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ONE OF THE LEADING VOICES in education has suggested that poor performance by students at Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) level is not all their fault. CXC registrar Dr Didacus Jules says it has a lot to do with the flawed education system. Delivering a lecture on The Challenges Of Education In The Contemporary Caribbean as the UWI in the Community Lunchtime Lecture Series continued yesterday, Jules said there needs to be a revolution in education across the region. “The problem of performance in Caribbean education is not simply a narrative of individuals’ failure but is also an expression of systemic meltdown,” he told the audience at the Grande Salle, Barbados Central Bank. “Put simply, that learners are failing in significant numbers is an expression of the fact that our education systems are fundamentally flawed and despite comparatively higher ratios of Caribbean investment in education than even some OECD [Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development] countries, we are failing to deliver efficiently and effectively.” He drew reference to the performance of candidates in the CXC exams over the past four years, noting that an average of 28 per cent of candidates did not receive acceptable grades (1-3), with that statistic rising to 33.4 per cent in 2012 Additionally, only 21.3 per cent of the cohort received Grades 1-3 in five or more subjects. The registrar also highlighted the 56 per cent of the 2012 cohort who obtained acceptable grades in only one or no subjects – whom he described as “the casualties of a system in which failure is structural” –, and those not entered for any exams at all after five years of secondary education. “The unknown and unrecorded numbers who enter secondary school but will leave without even an opportunity to sit a terminal exam are the silent shadows that will return to haunt you in the street corners, or attack you in your home. They are available recruits for the desperate and the dispossessed who our system has condemned to failure,” he warned. Noting that the weak learning outcomes when compared to the inputs in education point to wastage in the system, Jules said it was unacceptable “There is no industrial production line that would be comfortable with the degree of wastage that is represented in the weak learning outcomes that we see. Whether you’re producing soap or bread or cars, no industrial production line would tolerate that degree of wastage that we allow and we take as a norm within the education system,” he said. Jules said there was urgent need for improvements and the region would have to look for homegrown solutions. He offered three approaches which include: addressing the issue holistically rather than tinkering with parts of the system; strengthening the interconnectedness of the various levels, which would see more attention paid to early childhood education as a link to primary and then secondary education; and keeping the focus on learning and outcomes. (DP)  

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