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Feb 28, 2007

Teachers do poorly taking students exams

Story PictureAll of us who ever attended school can tell you about teachers who inspired us to learn … and those who, well, probably shouldn’t have ever entered the classroom. Today the Ministry of Education confirmed that assessment … and vowed to do something about it.

Anthony Fuentes, President, B.N.T.U.
“We can only achieve quality education if we have quality teachers.”

Kendra Griffith, Reporting
In an effort to determine the level of quality in Belize’s educational system, last October the Ministry of Education embarked on a campaign entitled: Measuring Up.

Marion McNab, C.E.O., Ministry of Education
“This intervention was directed primarily at standard six teachers and was designed to offer a comprehensive review of the P.S.E. Math and English, so that teachers could better understand what is addressed in the P.S.E.”

Yvonne Davis, Principal Education Officer
“One of the things that we noticed was that while the paper one in Math and English were basically satisfactory, it was the paper two in both Math and English that brought down the English and Math scores.”

To pinpoint the problem, M.O.E. had three hundred and fifty-five standard six teachers sit the English writing and composition paper and the Math problem solving paper from the 2006 Primary School Examination. What they found was that Belize’s students are failing the P.S.E., because their teachers can’t pass it either. The Math paper was scored out of fifty points.

Yvonne Davis
“We were only able to get twelve fifty out of fifty and notice that there are no full scores in Stann Creek and Toledo district, four of them coming out of the Cayo District.”

While the majority of the teachers, one hundred and eleven, scored between thirty-one and forty points; eighty-seven ended in the forty-one to forty-nine range; sixty-two were graded at twenty-one to thirty points, twenty-six fell between eleven and twenty points; and ten received between zero to ten points.

For the English paper, letter writing was scored out of twenty points, while composition was out of thirty points.

Yvonne Davis
“For the letter writing paper, out of twenty, ten people were able to maximize the mark scheme, getting nineteen or twenty points, what we consider to be excellent papers. The majority of our papers were at the adequate level. One hundred and forty-one of our teachers were writing at the adequate level scoring about ten to fourteen points on the letter writing paper. Composition, out of thirty points, fifteen of our teachers were able to write at the excellent level, twenty-six out of thirty points and a hundred and four at the proficient level, twenty to twenty-five points out of thirty. One hundred and fifteen at the adequate level, fifteen to nineteen points. There were six persons who were writing at the very poor level, one to seven points in composition writing and thirty-five at the inadequate level, making only around eight to fourteen points.”

And while the results were embarrassing, Chief Education Officer Maud Hyde was quick to point out that the intent was not to make the teachers look bad.

Maud Hyde, Chief Education Officer
“It is an eye opener, but as was said before, the intent is not to necessarily be overly critical of our teachers and our teachers ability, but as a nation to look at where we stand, to look at some of the things that keep us from seeing the performance from our children we would like to see and be able to address them.”

Anthony Fuentes
“The teachers will take this issue here today and see it as probably a deliberate attempt – maybe it might not be – but as an attempt to attack the teaching profession. I must say we are here to support the teachers and we only want that they offer quality education to our children. It’s not a blame game, because if it’s a blame game then all stakeholders involved should be blamed and not only the teachers.”

But now that they know the situation, what are the administrators going to do about it?

Yvonne Davis
“All the teachers who attended the sessions were trained in regards to how the exam is developed, how it is marked, what are the criteria used, what the expectations are, what the standards are, so countrywide, every standard six teachers at this point should know what to expect and how to adequately prepared the candidates for 2007 and beyond.”

The teachers and parents were also provided with manuals on how to better prepare for the exam. During last year’s exercise, the participants asked that there be some follow up to the initiative. But when the Ministry did just that in January and earlier this month with weekend sessions, attendance fell to below fifty percent.

Maud Hyde
“Often times I must say that the people who most attend these workshops are the people who can well do without them, the people who you would really like to see in the workshops are often not there.”

Other recommendations coming out of “Measuring Up” include a profile of what a standard six teacher should be and the need for continued professional development as the issue of unqualified or untrained teachers in the educational system continues to be a major concern.

Carol Babb, Chair, Assn. of G.M’s of Primary Schools
“In very remote villages, qualified teachers don’t want to go there and sometimes you have to take what you get.”

Anthony Fuentes
“Overall, fifty-one point four percent of our teachers are trained. In the Belize district for urban fifty-five point five percent, for rural forty-three point one percent; for the Cayo district fifty-six point one percent, for rural forty-six point four percent; for Corozal sixty-two point two percent for urban, for rural sixty-two point one percent; for Orange Walk sixty-one point eight percent, for rural fifty-seven point nine percent; for Stann Creek fifty-six point five percent, for rural thirty-four point five percent and for Toledo fifty-eight point eight percent and rural thirty-one point six percent.”

Carol Babb
“As a manager I am telling that you everyday we are faced with filling vacancies and being unable to find qualified teachers to fill those vacancies. Right now I look at one of my larger Anglican schools and at that school, there are only three trained teachers and the principal she came to me and she said “Miss Babb, what are we going to do?” Most of the teachers that we get, who apply for positions, have an associate degree but they don’t have an associate degree in education, it might in business or something else but not in education, and so a lot of time is spent trying to bring up those teachers to standard.”

The educators are hoping that problem will be rectified in the next couple of years as students pursuing education degrees graduate from tertiary level institutions. In the mean time, to bring current teachers up to scratch, the ministry says they are continuing to hold workshops for all standards. They are also looking to implement the Belize Teaching Services Commission, which will help the understaffed Ministry of Education police the system.

Marion McNab
“That commission will make sure that no teacher is permanently appointed to the system is that teacher is not qualified, that commission will be responsible for transferring our teachers, for rewarding our teachers when they are trained and so one and so there will be one body that will be looking at all issues, of course, with support from the M.O.E.”

To install the commission will require a constitutional amendment and support from the opposition. Kendra Griffith reporting for News Five.

Education authorities are not expecting to see any dramatic improvement in this year’s P.S.E. results, but are confident that improved teacher training and other initiatives will bear fruit in the future.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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