Vacation classes for 9,000 SEA students

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Minister of Education Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly. –

EDUCATION Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly said arrangements were being made for 9,000 pupils to take remedial classes in the July-August vacation before progressing to secondary school. The lessons will take place at 26 secondary schools nationwide, from July 18-August 12, with pupils accommodated at a school nearest to their homes, with breakfast and lunch provided.

She was addressing a briefing at her ministry on Friday to release data about the last Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) Exam.

Gadsby-Dolly said 9,000 pupils had scored under 50 per cent in the SEA Exam and as such would not be adequately prepared for secondary school, but could somewhat benefit from remediation classes in the three SEA subjects. She said SEA results this year matched global trends, (as fallout from restrictions during the covid19 pandemic.)

She said 19,079 pupils had written the exam, of whom 51 per cent were male and 48 per cent female (while not specifying a remaining one per cent.) The 2022 exam had fewer items in the Mathematics and English Language Arts papers, she said, while the type of writing needed in the English Language Writing paper was specified beforehand.

Gadsby-Dolly gave the mean score of pupils for each paper, compared to last year, noting “a decrease” from the past. These figures were: Mathematics 41.9 per cent (with 46.9 per cent last year); English Language Arts Writing 44.3 per cent (56.2 per cent last year) and English Language Arts 44.39 per cent (56.6 per cent last year).

“The percentage of students scoring above 50 per cent in the SEA in 2022 was 37.06 per cent. This reflects a decrease from 2020 where the levels were 63 per cent, and 2021 where the level was 52.49 per cent.”

That means over 12,000 students scored below 50 per cent in this year’s edition of the exam.

The percentage of those pupils scoring under 50 per cent who were still placed in secondary schools were 34.8 per cent in 2020, 44.9 per cent last year and 52.6 per cent this year.

She revealed a big jump in very-low scoring pupils.

“In 2022 the percentage of students scoring 30 per cent or below was 27.81 per cent, 17.7 in 2021 and 11 per cent in 2020.”

Referring to pupils too old to resit the SEA Exam, she said the percentage of those pupils scoring under 30 per cent who were nonetheless placed in secondary schools was 17.7 percent this year, 11.8 per cent last year and 8.3 percent in 2020. Even the number of high-scoring pupils exceeding a 90 per cent score had fallen from three percent last year to 0.47 per cent this year, she said.

“What these statistics show is a clear reduction in achievement, which certainly can be linked to the learning loss which has been predicted globally and locally due to the lack of face to face learning.”

She said the proportion of pupils who must resit the exam was 10.3 per cent this year, 5.8 per cent last year and 2.6 per cent in 2020.

“Let me say a special word to the parents of children who have been asked to resit the SEA. This is another chance for them to gain mastery of fundamental subjects that they will need for life.”

She acknowledged the disappointment of some parents.

“At this time it is difficult but I urge you to give them hope, give them encouragement Let them know that this is not the end.”

Gadsby-Dolly noted “a marked increase” in SEA pupils scoring under 30 per cent.

She said the vacation revision programme would be run at 26 secondary schools by 600 teachers to be recruited from the primary and secondary school system.

Lessons would be from 9 am-3pm. School principals will co-ordinate the programme at their schools and teachers will get training from ministry professionals.

“An emphasis will be placed in small class sizes of no more than 15 students per class.”

She said the relevant parents will be advised that their child needs to register in July at a school closest to them.

“It is recognised that this vacation programme will not be enough, in most cases, to assist our students to have a successful secondary school experience.

“Cabinet will be apprised next week of the Ministry of Education’s plan for those 26 schools and how educational attainment of these students will be managed.”

She said the vacation programme will cost $10 million.

Regarding top-placed pupils, Gadsby-Dolly said the ministry will no longer make a public announcement based on the preliminary exam results. After a review period lasting until mid-August, individual parents can make a request for their child’s placement rating, to be given privately. Without giving details, she seemingly referenced the legal action taken last year for a pupil whose revised grade beat the preliminary grade of the pupil recognised as first-placed such that two awards had to be made of the President’s Medal.

The minister said while pupils had been performing admirably, they were then overridden by an unhealthy competitiveness often driven by parents. Gadsby-Dolly said an infinitesimal difference in marks had led to a diminution of self-worth, plus anxiety, negativity and mental distress. Newsday asked if the Freedom of Information Act might be used to see exam scores, and she said the act was open to individuals sending in a request.

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