By Vishani Ragobeer
Cognisant of the pressure placed on young children when sitting the National Grade Six Assessment (NGSA), Minister of Education Priya Manickchand, has noted that the ministry is exploring whether this assessment should be stopped and instead, direct focus can be placed on ensuring an equal delivery of education.
The NGSA is Guyana’s secondary school placement examination. It tests four subject areas: Mathematics, English Language, Science and Social Studies and is written by children aged 10 years old, on average.
At an event on Friday, the Education Minister explained: “NGSA is something we have to sit, we have to write, not because we want to test children and find out who is bright and who is not… It’s a placement exam. We have to find out where to put children.”
However, she lamented: “It has turned into something I don’t like anymore… never really liked it, and we are currently examining how we can make sure it doesn’t matter which high school you get.”
According to the Education Minister, to ensure that there is an equitable delivery of education across the country – no matter what secondary school a student attends – there must be equality of services, trained teachers and facilities.
“Queen’s College is 180 years old and we can’t make another high school 180 years old, so there is a tradition but then there is service, quality, resources, facility and if we equalise what we give as resources then it wouldn’t matter anymore what high school you got, and that’s what we are working on.”
For context, Queen’s College is Guyana’s premier secondary education institution and a quota of the students who get the higher marks at the NGSA are awarded a place here.
Subsequently, when asked by the News Room if the ministry was, therefore, considering abolishing the NGSA, Manickchand answered: “We are looking at ways that we can be friendly to children even as we keep the formal education system going.”
She added, “Testing children on one single day and having their future decided on that day when they are 10 years old is hard and it might not be the most child-friendly thing that we can do.”
She did not wish to make any pronouncements on what the NGSA would be replaced with if it is indeed stopped, but the Education Minister noted that this decision would only be made after wide consultations.
She, however, emphasised that the ministry is “robustly” examining how the services, resources and facilities provided in all schools can be equal to ensure that there is a high standard of education at any school.
“That’s the whole selling point here – that the schools have to provide an equal type of education and then see if the best way to do this is to test on a paper or if we want to perhaps look at a buildup of testing,” Minister Manickchand said too.
While speaking at the event on Friday, the minister also alluded to the possible halting of the Grades Two and Four assessments, as well.
“It might be very [precipitous] but we are considering whether some of those exams need to even be continued. The Grades Two and Four (assessments) started out because we wanted to ensure children were literate,” she said, but continued: “Have we seen an increase in the level of literacy because of those two exams, or did they just become two exams?”