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Jun 11, 2019

Small Victories in P.S.E. Results, but not Much has Changed

And while those top performing students are celebrating their results, many others not so much. The needle of improvement has not budged over the last ten years of the Primary School Examination. The overall result of the exam has not changed, despite there being minor improvements in some sections of some of the tests.  The Ministry of Education reports that they have recorded some small changes in English, Math and Social Studies, but Science is way behind. The ministry’s examinations chief, Nelson Longsworth, provided some context and analysis to this year’s results.

 

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

The overall result for the Primary School Examination hasn’t changed over the last ten years. While some subjects saw slightly improved test scores– there hasn’t been any significant improvement in the overall performance. Director of Exams in the Ministry of Education, Nelson Longsworth, says that there is a glimmer of hope, but a lot more to improve on.

 

Nelson Longsworth

Nelson Longsworth, Director of Examinations Unit, MOE

“That’s the sad point because over all we are still nearly at the same place when you look at the ten year trend. Which, it goes to show that many times, the effort that is being made by the Ministry or by management and teachers of the school have to be sustained. Even though you don’t see big improvements, continue because it takes a while for these to take place to kick in and show improvement in students’ performance.   But we are encouraged because when start seeing these national improvements it is telling you that the system is digging deeper; they are preparing the students more for the exam and that is encouraging because that is what needs to happen.”

 

The Ministry of Education’s report shows that Social Studies recorded the highest increase overall in improved scores, with a two point two percent increase. Over eighty percent scored a D or higher on the exam. Longsworth explains what has attributed to this over the years.

 

Nelson Longsworth

“Social Studies is kind of in a unique place where a lot of the skills that are tested in Social Studies would also be tested in English and Math. So, you’d find that students’ ability to analyze and look at data and come up with a relationship and so on, those skills are improving and continue to improve. Also, Social Studies – a large part of it if is living – and I think they are now applying that idea to many of the questions that are now coming.”

 

For the English exam, seventy percent of the students are performing at an adequate level or better – that is, they get a grade D or higher. The mean score for this exam overall has increased by about one percent when compared to last year. The analysis of the results shows that students still have a big problem with creative writing and some two hundred students didn’t get a grade for that component of the exam.

 

Nelson Longsworth

“The writing, especially the narrative – the writing of a story is the weakest area. If you look at the analysis, the difference between the top twenty-five students and you do analysis you will realize that what differentiates one from the other is that particular narrative paper. Students tend to do well with the formatting and mechanics but where they falter is creativity in writing and expression. So, I think those are the areas where they need to continue to give student feedback on practice work so that they can improve those areas.  Some bright spots, though, we are seeing where children are now, when we mark that same paper, children are writing more which is a good sign and we are encouraged by that. We still, though, have a large number of them that get ungraded which we need to fix because it brings down an average considerably for a school. Ungraded is not a grade so it doesn’t get into the calculation.”

 

For this year, adequate scores for Science are down significantly. Sixty-six percent of the students scored fifty percent of higher– it is a fourteen percent decrease when compared to the eight percent of students who earned D or higher last year. Longsworth provides some context for the dismal Science grades.

 

Nelson Longsworth

“What we are recognizing, the way Science is being taught in schools, traditionally or for a long time, it is as a set of notes that you have to study. We are finding that the questions students are unable to answer correctly require an understanding of the Science concept or phenomena behind the question. So, children are unable to get them correct because the understanding is not there. But if you do it as a straight recall, they will get those correct. But they need more from the perspective of learning science by doing hands on, activities and experiments and so on.”

 

In Math, only fifty-five percent of the students are performing at an adequate level getting a D or higher on the test. And on the flip side, forty-five percent failed. Grades overall only improved by a meager one percent. So, what must be done for students to get better grades in this subject?

 

Nelson Longsworth

“A lot of things must come into play for students to learn mathematical concepts. What we are finding especially when we are marking paper two, which is where we are seeing the deficiencies clearly, is where students respond to problems that they are given.  We are seeing now, for example, in the area of graphs, I think they have mastered how to represent graphs and how to interpret graphs. We find that if the question value six points, most of them now are getting five or six points. There are a few who would get zero maybe because they haven’t encountered that concept in school. So, we are seeing great improvement in specific areas in Math. What continues to be problematic for the children is that many of the number operation concepts they are yet to learn. They are not learning the concepts they are learning more how to do something without understanding why they do what they do.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

 

In Wednesday’s newscast, we will share more from Nelson Longsworth about the performance of schools with a focus on Toledo and Stann Creek.


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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