Statement by Dr. the Honourable Natalio D. Wheatley
Minister for Education, Culture, Youth Affairs, Fisheries and Agriculture
at the Fifth Sitting of the Second Session of the
Fourth House of Assembly held on Thursday, 20th October, 2020
Additional Year in Public Secondary School
Mr. Speaker, last year, I announced my intention to examine the additional year of instruction in our public secondary schools, with the intention of deciding whether it would continue. Mr. Speaker, I held public meetings, which yielded useful feedback on the topic. I was able to confirm that, indeed, there were students in the system who benefitted from the additional year as well as students who were being held back by the additional year.
Mr. Speaker, following those public meetings, it was recommended that I supplement the qualitative data derived from those public meetings with quantitative data derived from a scientific study. Hence, I commissioned the H. Lavity Stoutt’s Planning department to compare the performance of HLSCC students from the public secondary schools with the additional year with HLSCC students from private schools without the additional year. They also were to compare the performance of students before and after the introduction of the additional year. It is important to note that students who had an additional year first attended hlscc in 2017.
Mr. Speaker the results of the study are enlightening. Firstly, St. Georges had a higher success rate, which is the percentage of students with a C or better, than Elmore Stoutt and Bregado Flax in 2017, and Seventh Day Adventist had a higher success rate than Elmore Stoutt and Bregado Flax in 2018. Both Bregado Flax and Elmore Stoutt had higher success rates in 2013 than in 2017 and 2018. In examining the distribution of grades between 2013 and 2018, there is no statistical data that supports any conclusion that the additional year of school improved performance at HLSCC. In fact, in some instances, the private schools, which did not implement an additional year, had a greater percentage of A’s and B’s on the college level or had results which were similar to that of their peers from public secondary schools. This is also reflected in the csec results. Therefore, I must conclude that research does not support the assertion that the additional year was a major factor in the preparation of these students for tertiary study.
Mr. Speaker, what I can say with more certainty is that the performance of students is more closely aligned with the quality of their teaching, how well their style of learning is accommodated in the school system, the quality of their academic support at home, their socio-economic status, their discipline and willingness to learn, their foundation in early childhood education, the existence of a learning disability, among other factors. Mr. Speaker, we would be much better served in putting resources towards the areas that research has confirmed has an impact on students’ academic outcomes.
Having said that, Mr. Speaker, it is also important that no student feels rushed or pressured into finishing school before the appropriate time. Students who need additional time to prepare for exams and complete course work should not be robbed of this additional year. Therefore, a solution that benefits the individualized needs of the student population is necessary.
Mr. Speaker, beginning in September 2020, I am mandating that grade 10 students, who have qualified based on their strong academic performance, be given the opportunity to graduate in 2 years instead of 3. Once obtaining a grade of B+ and above, students can choose an accelerated track, which would still require them to complete the same graduation requirements, including credit requirements, examination passes, and community service hours in 2 years instead of 3. In exceptional circumstances, students can qualify based on the recommendation of the principal of the institution. Those who fall below the required gpa will finish in the 3 years that is presently required based on the present graduation requirements. This initiative will be reviewed in July 2021.
Mr. Speaker, I thank you!