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Education in “state of emergency,” set up inquiry – APNU

(L-R) APNU’s David Granger, Amna Ally and Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine

The APNU is calling for the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry to investigate what it says is the unsatisfactory performance of the education sector.

At a news conference on Friday APNU Chairman David Granger listed a number of shortcomings including poor learning environment, teacher indiscipline, dropouts and the performance disparity between the public and private schools.

“APNU is concerned, particularly, that as a consequence of problems in the public education system, a form of educational apartheid is emerging. It is evident that private schools seem to be performing consistently better than public schools,” Granger said.

Additionally, coastland schools have been achieving better results than schools in the hinterland. According to Granger, of the 16,811 students who sat the National Grade Six Assessment (NGSA) exam this year only 173 were placed in the best secondary schools with more than 80 of them from private schools.

“No student from the hinterland – namely, the Barima-Waini, Cuyuni-Mazaruni, Potaro-Siparuni and Rupununi regions – or from the Mahaica-Berbice region qualified among the top one percent.”

Taken also with the declining Mathematics pass rate Granger said the APNU believed there was no sufficient evidence to warrant a formal investigation into the entire public education system.

The CoI, Granger said should be tasked with determining the reasons for the unsatisfactory results at the CAPE, CSEC, and NGSA exams; the obstacles to good education primarily at the primary and secondary levels, and to determine the way forward for higher standards and better results.

This is at least the third call the coalition has made for a commission of inquiry for the year with others including one into hinterland deaths following a gastroenteritis outbreak several months ago and another to look at the growing number of river accidents. None of those commissions were established though Granger acknowledged that the government has made efforts to address issues raised.

Asked why call for a CoI instead of another measure the APNU Leader said they wanted an independent panel and not a government appointed body.

“We do not want an internal task force from the ministry which is likely to maybe sweep the dust under the carpet. For example, we’ve had cases of trafficking in persons, the government had set up its own ministerial task force and they discovered, ha, there’s no trafficking.

But once the Guyana Women Miners Organisation investigated these cases independently we suddenly started to discover there’s trafficking and people are being brought before the court,” Granger said.

According to him, education was now in “a state of emergency” and the government would have to be “wooden-headed” not to take corrective action.

APNU executive Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine added that the advantage of a CoI was that it came under the Commission of Inquiries Act which sets out its powers giving it more teeth than a task force. The CoI, he added, would provide “an objective basis for remedial action.”

Granger had acknowledged that a broad-based approach going beyond the government was needed to address the sector’s shortcomings but he also believed that there was failure on the political front.

“We cannot go on blaming the administrators; we can’t go on blaming the education officials without providing the resources which are needed to turn the system around. Although the money is there the choices about the implementation of programmes, about where the money should be spent do not bring about the outcomes which are beneficial to the bulk of our students,” Granger said.

However, he added that they were not calling for the removal of the education minister but rather that she better informed and that there be greater parliamentary oversight from primary right up to the university level.

The analysis of the 2013 CSEC results revealed that the overall pass rate at the General and Technical proficiencies for Grade One to Three was 59.31 percent as opposed to 58.69 percent in 2012. The overall 2013 Grade One to Grade Four pass rate was 80.92 percent.

But the pass rates in the core subjects, Mathematics and English A, were 28.92 percent and 45.69 percent respectively.

Education Minister Priya Manickchand has said that a comprehensive review is needed to address education deliver starting from the primary level.