Making schools equal not taking away from ‘top schools’ – Education Minister

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By Vishani Ragobeer

Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand, has emphasised that making all schools equal does not mean that the ministry will take away from the existing top schools, noting that a “constructive conversation” must surround the discussion on secondary school placement.

Manickchand said this while answering questions at the announcement of the 2020 Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) examinations results on Wednesday at the National Centre for Education and Research Development (NCERD) in Kingston, Georgetown.

“Without apology, we intend to make every secondary school a good, and excellent secondary school (and) people should not hear that to mean that we are taking away from the good secondary schools,” the minister emphasised.

Recently, the minister alluded to a possible elimination of the National Grade Six Assessment (NGSA), which is used to rank children based on their academic proficiency and then place them into secondary schools.

On Wednesday, however, the minister emphasised that the focus of the ministry will be on identifying how all students can benefit from equal resources regardless of whether they attend a community high school or one of the top schools in Georgetown. This, she said, is meant to ensure some “evenhandedness”.

Fortifying her point, the Education Minister said that Queen’s College, her alma mater and the top secondary school in Guyana, can only accommodate the top 120 students each year. And, though students compete for a spot at this school, it should not mean that the student, who ranks in the 121 place, or even in the 600 place with a score of 95 per cent, does not deserve a sound education too.

She also highlighted that in countries like the United States and Canada, students attend their local community high school. Minister Manickchand, however, underscored that “… there is always space for special education students, students who perform well.”

Importantly, she cautioned people against assuming that the ministry was making sweeping changes immediately. In fact, she emphasised that the conversation on students’ placement is one that needs to be “constructive” and it is one that will be ongoing.

“Barbados started talking about this same thing three years ago and they haven’t yet put it in place because these kinds of changes, we don’t get to change the quality of education at a school and the culture around delivery of education at that school overnight” she said, adding, “it’s a process.”

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