Wheatley Pulls Plug On Mandatory Additional School Year
The additional school year which was implemented in 2016 at public secondary schools are no longer mandatory.
In fact, Minister of Education, Hon. Dr. Natalio Wheatley said that scientific evidence shows that there is no link between the extra year and improving students’ performance at the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College (HLSCC).
The Minister who made the announcement in the House of Assembly yesterday, February 20, said that his decision derived following both qualitative data from public meetings held last year and quantitative data from HLSCC’s Planning Department.
He said that to this end, they will be creating two paths to reach the academic needs of each child at the beginning of September. The minister said this new initiative will be reviewed in July of next year.
The implementation of the 12th Grade was an initiative of former Education Minister, Mr Myron Walwyn which received heavy criticisms by both parents and teachers, who had questioned whether the move was in the interest of the children.
But Walwyn had insisted that it was in the best interest of the students and the Territory.
At yesterday’s sitting, Minister Wheatley told the House of Assembly that following public meetings it was recommended that he supplement the qualitative data derived from those meetings with quantitative data derived from a scientific study.
“Hence, I commenced the HLSCC’s community college’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 compared the performance of students before and after the introduction of the additional year. It is important to know that students who had an additional year first attended HLSCC in 2017,” he stated.
He said that the results of the study are enlightening explaining that, St. Georges Secondary, a private school, had a higher success rate with a percentage of students with a C or better than the two government school, Elmore Stoutt High School (ESHS) and Bregado Flax Educational Centre in 2017.
Further, he disclosed that the Seventh Day Adventist, another privately run school, had a higher success rate than ESHS 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 improves performance at HLSCC," he said.
The minister went to state, "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 a college level or had results that were similar to that of their peers from public secondary schools."
He further stated that this is also reflected in the CSEC (CXC) 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,” he noted.
Wheatley indicated that he is more certain 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; and the existence of any learning disabilities among other factors.
“We will be much better served in putting resources towards the areas that research has confirmed has had an impact in students’ academic output. It is also important that no student feels rushed or pressured into finishing school before the appropriate time,” he explained.
To this end, two paths will be taken.
“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 individualize needs of the student population is necessary,” the minister noted.
Hence, beginning in September this year, the education minister said that, he will be mandating that grade 10 students who have qualified based on their strong academic performance be given the opportunity to graduate in two years instead of three. Further, 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 two years instead of three.
“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 three years that are presently required based on the present graduation requirements. This initiative will be reviewed in July 2021,” Minister Wheatley stated.