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Jun 8, 2018

Exam Chief’s Tough Talk: “We are Failing our Children”

But while the joy of the top twenty-five and other high scorers is unconfined, the overall picture of the results remains under par. The mean score for English dipped two points, from fifty-seven to fifty-five percent; Math went up slightly, from fifty-one point nine percent to fifty-two point six percent; Social Studies slumped by six points from sixty-eight to sixty-two percent, and Science rose slightly to just under sixty-two percent. The examinations chief of the Ministry of Education offered his usual sober analysis of the results in speaking with News Five’s Aaron Humes this afternoon.


Aaron Humes, Reporting

Director of the Examination Unit Nelson Longsworth explained that the mean, median and mode grades – for those who may have forgotten their basic math – are the average, mid-point and most similar grades for each of the four subjects tested in the Primary School Examination. But no matter which way you slice it, the results are not good.


Nelson Longsworth

Nelson Longsworth, Head of Examinations Unit, Ministry of Education

“We see fluctuations from year to year; on the average, definitely, some years there are increases, other years they go down. But in terms of the body of the students doing, we are finding, as you rightfully said, math has been a challenge all these years, where a large number of students, nearly fifty percent of them, are doing below the adequate level, and that is of big concern because we need to try and turn that around. In terms of the A band, we see how that goes up and down depending on the year; as I said  it fluctuates a bit, but definitely they are not where we would like them to be. We have seen for English where the band has dropped to a lower band than last year, where most of the children or the majority of the children are struggling with their reading still and writing.”


For the English exams, only four percent of students received an ‘A’ countrywide while one-third or thirty-three percent managed an ‘E’ or inadequate grade. In Mathematics, twelve percent of students received an ‘A’ while nearly half, forty-nine percent, received an ‘E.’ But Longsworth says that despite the results not showing much difference from before, there are some bright spots.


Nelson Longsworth

“I would leave it at about the same. Although the fluctuation this year has been on the down, math has shown a bright spot, of an increase; but that’s what been happening over the past years, where it goes up and down and it fluctuates around the same averages you mentioned earlier, where Math and English are in the fifties and Social Studies and Science are in the upper sixties.”


Every few years, the Ministry also updates on the performances of schools. A school grade point average, GPA for short, is calculated by multiplying the number of students achieving certain grades between A and E by a factor on the scoring key from 0 to 4 points, then dividing by the number of students who sat the exam. Ranked by category of the number of students sitting the examination, Belize Elementary School is head of Category I (more than fifty entrants), with St. Andrew Anglican and Our Lady of Guadalupe R.C. of Cayo, La Inmaculada R.C. of Orange Walk and Mary Hill R.C. of Corozal rounding out the top five. Among smaller schools, private institutions such as Hummingbird Elementary which produced five of this year’s top seven students and Bernice Yorke, another high achiever, are top. But Longsworth spared no quarter in offering what he believes is the solution to the inadequate grades on the examination.


Nelson Longsworth

“It’s more than an exam; it’s about educating our children. And this is where everybody needs to get on board. I think to a large extent, and myself as a parent, we have been failing our children. We are not doing for them, guiding them, providing and ensuring that they spend quality time learning, extending their learning from school, doing their homework, reducing the T.V. time and all of that – so parents have to be involved, they need to play a bigger part. Secondly, we have to improve the teaching and learning that’s happening in the classroom, and that has to do with ensuring that the teachers are doing the best they can do, and that they are properly trained. So a lot of these are being done, it’s a slow and grinding process, and the managements need to play their role as well. So everybody needs to come together including the Ministry of Education. And so the examination is just a report of all this work happening and as you can see from the report for this exam, we are nowhere near where we need to be.”


Aaron Humes reporting for News Five.


Commenting on the results on social media, former Minister of Education Francis Fonseca made note that more than five thousand of the seven-thousand plus P.S.E. entrants scored a grade C or satisfactory and below. Noting that the problem with exam scores has existed under both political parties, he called for a “bold, creative overhaul” of the education system. He concluded, “If we don’t all come together with a sense of urgency to create an education system that works for all Belizeans then we will never be able to create a Belize that works for all.”

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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1 Response for “Exam Chief’s Tough Talk: “We are Failing our Children””

  1. Fungus says:

    .shows how our education system is no better than our justice system ,, time to purge belize..

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