OPINION: Red Thread has it wrong again

Last Updated on Sunday, 16 June 2024, 16:14 by Writer

By Dr Randy Persaud, Professor Emeritus

You might think that Red Thread, with so many intellectuals on its roster, would write informed and reasoned commentary on the situation in Guyana. Once, again, however, instead of reason we get rant, and instead of constructive criticisms, we are subjected to a barrage of ideological nonsense. The latest iteration of Red Thread’s malarky surfaced in its comments on the GTU strike (KN, 6/15/2024).

Red Thread is upset that parents can receive financial subsidies to help pay tuition at private schools. Now the same Red Thread and its ideological brethren the WPA, have openly wept about the lack of support for working class parents. Now that the government is willing to help those same parents, Red Thread sees a great conspiracy.

What Red Thread does not know is that some private schools are providing opportunities to working class parents and underperforming students that the government schools do not make available. The top schools like QC and Bishops’ take only the highest performing NGS pupils. SVN (Saraswati Vidya Niketan), a private school at Cornelia Ida, however, takes students with scores in the high 300s!

In 2018, 14,065 students took the NGS. Only 144 got over 513. Of those, QC took 111 students with 514 marks and above. The highest obtainable score was 523. By contrast SVN took only 16 students with scores of 500 or more. 28 students had scores between 384 and 471. The average entrant at SVN had 472 marks. Despite its open entrance policy, SVN had 100% passes in eight subjects. Seven students had 12 grade ones or more. Of six students who were refused entry into any secondary school in the country, three matriculated, having passed both English and Mathematics.

For SVN, the pass rates (in selected subjects) were Biology – 97.97%; Chemistry – 100%; Economics – 97.50%; English – 100%; English Literature – 89.55%; Industrial Technology – 100%; IT – 98.51%; Integrated Science – 97.44%; Mathematics – 88.06%; Physics – 93.94%; Principles of Accounts – 91.67%; Principles of Business – 100%; Social Studies – 98.36%, and Spanish – 78.79%.

Overall pass rates (in selected subjects) in Guyana in the same year were Chemistry – 58%; Economics – 63%; English Language – 70%; English Literature – 63%; Mathematics – 34%; Integrated Science – 66%; Physics – 55%; Principles of Account – 69%; Principles of Business 72%, and Social Studies – 53%.

58 of the 67 (86.56%) SVN students matriculated with 55 of them (82%) passing 10 subjects or more. It is important to stress again that the average incoming NGS score (2018) of the same batch of graduating students was 472.

Private schools are delivering first class education with little direct cost to the taxpayer. This has allowed for greater resources to be directed to public schools.

There are numerous other benefits from private schools such as SVN. The obvious one is that taxpayers are not burdened with the current $700,000 per child, per annum. The other major issue is that students do not have to travel great distances, a burdensome and costly matter. Many can walk to school. SVN provides transportation!

Finally, but on an equally substantive issue, Red Thread seems to be unaware that teachers want 20% back pay going back to 2019! Where in the world does that happen?

Red Thread has never been good at public policy. This is why they cannot see simple things. Don’t you see that as it stands, private schools are subsidizing public schools by freeing up education funds that would otherwise have to be expended on schools, teachers, facilities, pensions, and perks like duty-free concessions that are available at government schools.

I close by saying that Red Thread is a brutally partisan organization that somehow manages to cozy up to INGOs and foreign liberals who do not know much about Guyana. If they want to make a real contribution, they should get into the public policy details, with special emphasis on the political economy of state finance. Ideological sensationalism just won’t do.

Dr. Randy Persaud is an Adviser (International Affairs) at Office of the President.