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“Tough love” sees younger students at Chase Academy excelling at CSEC exams

As Guyana observes Education Month 2017, one of the country’s private schools says its “tough love” formula is paying off, resulting in a number of its students of lower forms passing Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examinations with very good grades.

Chase Academy, owned by long-serving educator and Principal, Henry Chase, says  Form Two students have also been pasing Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) subjects with flying colours. They include Marissa Gordon (Grade One in English A); Jania Gomes (Grade One in English A and Grade Three in Social Studies) and Adalia Culpepper (Grade One in English A).

From Fourth Form were Shanice Liverpool (Grade One in English A); Tamisha Cole (Grade Two in English A and Grade Two in Principles of Accounts) and Micah Corlette (Grade One in English A and Grade Two in Mathematics).

A number of the successful students attributed their performance to their teachers’ dedication and persistence in ensuring that they pursued their studies rigorously.

Shemar Allen, who ‘wrote’ CXC  English A (Grade One) in Fourth Form at 15 years old, praised Sir Chase and the teachers for his academic achievements since leaving St. John’s College where teachers there “rarely” taught him and his schoolmates.”With that, I just ‘slack and slack’ but coming to Chase and fitting into a working kind of environment and adapted to it and in a working environment and perform and basically I made things happen,” he said. He wants to be a highly qualified accountant. “When there is a shortage of accountants, Shemar Ally is always here,” he quipped.

Allen also credited his parents for encouraging him and the Principal. “Also, Mr Chase, himself, he showed tough love and encouraged me to come to lessons. All that contributed to my success,” he said.

Cole, a former student of Central High School, said the public schools are not working as hard as the private schools. “The commitment that Sir Chase shows us and he has this drive. He shows this commitment to us,” she said, adding that she has since diverted from Science to Business stream. With “dedication and discipline,” she said she completed her School Based Assessment and eventually obtained a Grade Two. Among those she believed contributed to her success are her mother, who is an English Language teacher at St. John’s College, and several other teachers at Chase Academy. “I thank God for Ms Samantha at St. John’s College. She pushed me a lot. We stayed up some nights because I only had a couple days within which to accomplish all of the work and she worked with me from morning to night; some days I had to sleep over and so on,” she said. She vowed to work very hard during the next academic year to build on her success so far.

Cole, an aspiring journalist, entrepreneur and musician, said Chase Academy’s “tough love” has helped to mould her into being an early academic achiever. “The tough love- I need it; I need it a lot because I normally see myself as saying ‘I’m young yet. Why they have to push me?’ because I never understand why every single afternoon and night going home, why I have to join all of these classes and I’m still young. ‘Why can’t I wait and so on’ but the tough love worked out for the best because when you realise at the end, it means something,” she said.

Culpepper, who attends St. Joseph’s High School and began pursuing studies at Chase Academy while she was 13 years and in Form Two, eventually went on to pass CSEC English. “For me, I didn’t find any difficulties. I would say that I have a talent in writing. For me, I would edify myself to go forward in English, to set my standard as high as I can to achieve what I set myself,” said the Third Former who would like to be a musical entrepreneur and change agent.

Asked whether she believed that students should be allowed to sit CSEC exams much earlier than most who do so towards the end of their secondary school career, she said it all depended on their capabilities.

Gomes, who attended Chase Academy from Form One, said she never had a problem with English and Sir Chase pushed her to achieve her goal. “There were sometimes when I thought it was really tough especially with the Social Studies. Sometimes, I wanted to give up on Social Studies. I wished that I hadn’t signed up for it but in the end it all paid off even though I got a Grade Three….but I think I was ready for English and so I went for it,” said the aspiring attorney-at-law.

Veteran teacher, Franklyn Langhorne, who taught Mr. Chase, said he began teaching at Chase Academy more than 18 months during which time the Principal’s son, who was in Form Two last year, attained Grade One in CSEC English A. “After that happened, he thought it best to invite me here to see whether or not a collaboration between Chase and Langhorne can bear some kind of fruit. It has borne fruit,” he said.

On the issue of career guidance, Langhorne said the current approach is ad hoc rather than institutionalised. In that regard, he said the Cyril Potter College of Education’s (CPCE) teacher training programmes need to be adapted to deal with a variety of challenges. “Right now, what comes out of CPCE is a creature who wants money to live in a society that is very difficult. A teacher is more than that,” he added.

The Principal said his school does not have a structured career guidance framework, but he and his teaching staff take into account the desires of students and parents as well as students who have a less than satisfactory relationship with their parents. “We have a lot of children who really don’t have relationships with their parents. They really don’t communicate. There is a distant relationship so the children generally are left on their own and so what I think what we need is something structured- the school, the child the home- where we can all work together for the benefit of the child,” he said.

He observed that many of the students at Chase Academy are “literally rejected by other schools and we show them that they can learn.” One of them includes a former student of Tucville Secondary (formerly Community High) School, having written ‘Common Entrance’ and obtained 320 marks. Today, Sir Chase said that student graduated from his school with five subjects including Grade One in Business and Grade Three in three other subjects. Similarly, a former student of St. George’s Secondary School secured Grade One passes at his school.

“It is showing, yes, that we are contributing to the change that I have, as a vision, and I am just hoping that the Ministry (of Education) can also see that we have bright children in the system. Those same children that are denied from writing subjects at schools, they come right here and they write their subjects and they get them so I think we need to start tackling the way that we train our teachers,” he said.

Chase Academy was established in 2007 with an enrollment of seven students and three teachers to address shortcomings. Today, the institution boasts 274 students at its Parade Street, Kingston, Georgetown. “It has been a rewarding period from then to now. We have grown , we have matured as an institution and more so I am happy that children as young as Form Two, with the potential, are given the opportunity to write CSEC.