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Jun 6, 2011

Analyzing the PSE scores; why grades dropped for so many

Earlier you met this year’s top PSE students; most of them from public schools. And as we said, the results in English and Math were not encouraging. Last year, the mean performance in English was at sixty-three point five percent and this year it dropped to the C level at fifty-four point nine percent. In respect of the math exams, performance has always been inadequate, below the fifty percent mark. But in the area of Social Studies since 2004, the trend has been steady at a satisfactory level which is sixty percent and above. News Five’s Andrea Polanco looks at the statistics with the Ministry of Education.

Yvonne Davis, Principal Education Officer, National Exams

Yvonne Davis

“It is one of those years similar to some of those years we have experienced where we see umm a drop in English and Math and in Science. So it is similar to what we have seen before umm I don’t know if there is or there needs to be a kind of debate that talks about how do we try to maintain a certain level of performance within the system. We might need to begin to do that and again we might need to review some of the interventions that we have in place in the school system and some of them may not be working as effectively as we might want them to work or maybe there is a lack in some areas as it relates to the academic performance of the students.”

While private schools are always top performers over all, the public schools did remarkably well this year, which Davis says isn’t surprising:

Yvonne Davis, Principal Education Officer, National Exams

“The top performers come from across the country and from various schools which is an indication to us that the curriculum is taught in private schools as well as public schools so the competition is straight across the board. So whoever goes to a private school and whoever goes to a public school has the same chance of coming up on top because it is the same curriculum everybody uses in this country, So we are not very surprised that this has happened.”

For principals of some of the top performing schools in the city, there is a combination of efforts that contribute to their success.

Sherry Ali, Principal Bernice York

Sherry Ali

“Well it’s just a validation for us knowing that we have worked so far to achieve this goal. Umm with us education is continuous it starts way, way down—we see education not only happening in the upper division and getting ready for high school. We take education from way down in preschool and we ensure that all levels the students meet the standards and the criteria before they’re promoted and because of that we feel that is why they perform well at the P.S.E level.”

Molly Hulett, Principal Holy Redeemer

“Ok every year what we do we self evaluate, we look at our weak areas and we build on that.”

Deanne Nisbet

Deanne Nisbet, Principal Belize Elementary Schol

“I think also that umm in this day and age, I think that we need to listen to our children, we need to take time for our children. We know that parents are very much involved in work but we need to take time to  pay attention to their needs as small as they may be and I think that that’s what leads to our success.”

But while those schools boast top students with good grades, there are some three thousand eight hundred and sixty five students who obtained E in Math, but Davis says there are a number of variables that account for the low scores.

Yvonne Davis, Principal Education Officer, National Exams

“The numbers tell us doesn’t necessarily tell us the story, we use the numbers to produce the story. For instance there are many studies that tell about the fear of math and that has been that’s a world wide a universal topic the fear of math and there are numerous studies that is better in math girls or boys, there are studies about the whole issue mathematics to boys and girls. So there are many variables as it relates to exam there is also the anxiety factor that comes into play. If you already have a fear for math and you are taking a high stakes exam so that only compounds your anxiety and that could cause an effect in your performance as well.”

While there is a dip in the math and English scores, the schools in the Stann Creek and Toledo districts remain in the bottom with a history of low performance:

Yvonne Davis

“Again, a number of variables, a number of factors come into play—those I will not be able to pinpoint. Certainly there is the issue of first language. I know there is a whole area in one of the district where a number of the schools are predominantly children from Central America so they come in with their first language not being what we are used to in teaching—the English language. And so we have that barrier. There are other variables. I believe some reports have shown that these are the poorer districts in the country and some researchers believe there is a link between performance and socio-economics.”

Reporting for News Five, I am Andrea Polanco.

Overall, in order of performance, the best results were from Bernice Yorke, Belize Elementary tied with Hummingbird Elementary, Shepherds Academy in Belmopan and Mary Hill in Corozal.

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11 Responses for “Analyzing the PSE scores; why grades dropped for so many”


    Educators in Belize should be more concerned about the need to improve academic achievement especially in math and the English language in Belize. The children are failing for many different reasons and the location of schools in rich or poor neighbourhoods will have a significant effect on the academic performance of the children. This is where the GOB needs to put his interest and money instead of the same old tired speech about education.

    Prime minister need to set high standards in education in Belize because higher achievement is particularly valued in every society which sets high premium on success as the stepping stone for entrance into more prestigious occupations.
    Then again, what would he know about “high standard”.

  2. BILLY BOB says:


  3. cg says:

    Billy Bob, you are spot on! These exams never ever will give you what a child can really accomplish in life. There are people with better capacity to learn, remember and produce..while others are more creative and have no real focus on hard academics….let them learn do their final exams and move one to what they want to do in life…these things dont do anything but bring stress…same goes for CXC’s..waste of time

  4. student says:

    we need more exams, we are now living in a global community where our children will need to compete for jobs with every body in the Caribbean, so we need now regional exams starting from standard 1 and 3 to see where our students start to falter. wake up Belize, relevant accessible education is the ONLY SOLUTION for our NATION

  5. Earl Grey says:


    WHAT HAPPENED TO OUR 90% LITERACY???????????????

  6. Curious says:

    These exams cause a lot of stress for many STUDENTS AND PARENTS alike. Too much emphasis is placed on a single exam, taken by very young kids.

    I know that one of the students who took PSE this year, developed loose stools just because of her nervousness. She spent a large part of the exam with cramps and nausea because she knew that her acceptance into certain High Schools, practically depends on a high PSE grade REGARDLESS of your overall school performance. Thankfully she did well but must we put these kids through that? Shouldn’t school grades be sufficient until they become High school Graduates, WHEN, they are more mature to deal with exam stress.

  7. deedee says:

    Nothing is wrong with this exam….how is it that some kids pass & excel great, whilst others dont??? That is becaz if u talk to any of those kids who did good on their exams they will definitely tell you that its HARD WORK, and this something that a lot of other kids aren’t use to, everything is just handed or told to them & that is how they flow. Don’t want to be blaming anyone but FOUNDATION starts at HOME. A lot of kids in school today are just being pushed up & out, with “not one thought in their brain”, if you pay attention closely you can see the result of this (young men committing vicious crimes throughout the society for absolutely no solid reason) this should never be. As the old saying goes “you get out what you put in”.

  8. concerned mom says:

    The exams are in no way a true reflection of the students’ ability. In some cases it is the luck of the draw…the questions touch on the areas that they are well versed in. Some children are put under undue pressure to perform well. Their self esteem hinge on how well they perform. I agree that acceptance at high school should be based on their school grades as opposed to their performance in P.S.E. My son did well. He got the top grade at his school; but I am much more pleased with his daily performance as opposed to this exam.

  9. Bea Bender says:

    I agree with Student, well partly agree. Kids should be tested when they are in 3rd and 5th. Listen we are so behind the developed nations, it is disappointing. Look how well Japan is doing in their schools. It is time for the PM to shut up and put his money where his mouth is!!! Also agree with deedee, foundation should start at home.

  10. Rod says:

    Since this gov. Took over even the education of our kids are in the toilet we have too many teachers out there teaching mostly nonsense they can’t even read and write themselves.


    I am of the conviction that many of the readers here might struggle to analyze a part of the problem affecting Belize today. Education is desperately needed in Belize and those of you who dare to say that too much emphasis is placed on exams/education, luck of the draw, etc have obviously tasted the salty end of low standard education in Belize or none all. When should we start training our children to become successful and responsibility? Responsibility starts now, when the children are young and optimistic.

    There are many intelligent children in Belize, and among all the poverty, the crimes, the rapes, the incest and the murderers in our intellectuals hides in the dark, traumatised from what they have seen around them.

    The GOB need to take education more seriously, seem like no one really cares for the future of Belize.

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