Floods, COVID-19 prevent over 400 students from writing NGSA mock exam

More than 400 pupils missed Thursday’s mock National Grade Six Assessment (NGSA) exams due to either the floods that are affecting several communities across the country or the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Education Minister
Priya Manickchand

On Thursday, the two-day mock examination for Grade Six pupils who are sitting the exam at school, at home, or online commenced across the country. For those writing the exam in schools, it would be the first time in over a year they have attended a class setting. They wrote Papers One and Two for Science and English on the first day, and today will sit the Mathematics and Social Studies papers. This exam is to prepare pupils for the official assessment in August.
According to preliminary figures provided during a press conference on Wednesday afternoon to give an update on the first day of the mock exam, just over 12,000 pupils wrote the mock exam on the first day, accounting for some 85 per cent of the 14,000 plus pupils who are listed to sit this year’s NGSA.
This means that more than 2400 children were absent from the mock exam. Of this figure, it was noted that some 420 pupils did not write the examination.
Education Minister Priya Manickchand has pointed out that the Ministry would be reaching out to those pupils who did not turn up for the mock exam, to ascertain the reason behind their absence and to give assistance if needed.
“Sometimes people don’t come for all kinds of reasons. This morning, parents might not have had passage to bring them to school. Is that something we could help with? Or they might have passage but they don’t have anything to put in their lunch kits. Is that something we could help with? Or they couldn’t come today particularly because they had small siblings to look after at home while the mother or father was at work. So there are very many different things here that we might be able to help with, so we just have to first learn what the problem is, why they are not here?” she posited.

Some 85% turnout for the NGSA mock exam

But it was noted that among the options given to students regarding this mock examination was to not write it at all.
Further, while these figures are not final, there are a small number of pupils who have not been participating in any academic activity in preparation for the NGSA exams in August, and cannot be accounted for by the school. This, according to the Education Minister, is a matter of concern. She contended that the Ministry would not allow these children to drop out of school, and, as such, will be fanning out across the country to locate the children and then figure out how to get them back into the system.
“It will be a robust plan using all of our resources, including welfare and other means to figure out where these children are, and what it is we need to do to get them interested back in education… We will find every single one of those students who did not turn up to participate either at home or in the class room, because we will not lose them. They will not become dropouts at this age,” she asserted.
Nevertheless, Manickchand has reassured that various schools, especially those in communities that are being affected by the floods, are being given flexibility in rewriting the mock exam, and the same option is also being considered for the NGSA exam in August.
“They are going to be allowed to write the [mock] exam at a different date. So, I think they already have dates in mind in various places. They have scheduled dates for when they write the exam… On the issue of the actual NGSA, if there are students who cannot take the NGSA on the scheduled dates, then the Ministry has the possibility of administering a similarly weighted exam at a later date for those students. So, we will have to assess that as we go along,” the Minister posited.

Meanwhile, this same courtesy has been extended to the Greenwich Park Primary School on the East Bank of Essequibo, where one of the pupils was struck and killed on the EBE Public Road on Tuesday. The mock exam for that school has been rescheduled to Monday.
The Education Minister has noted that even if students do not sit the NGSA exam, they will still be given placements in schools.

Pupils during their NGSA mock exam on Wednesday

“There are students who opt not to write the exams at all, and that will be an option that students are going to get in August too. If you don’t want to write the exam, that’s fine; but we will place you according to your regional average into schools in your region. So that’s what we would do very happily for the students who were unable to be engaged in this last year also,” Manickchand has stated.
Chief Education Officer Marcel Hutson further posited that all hope is not lost, even for those children who have dropped out of school due to varying circumstances. He cited the Ministry’s vast TVET curriculum.
“We don’t want to say that because a child did not write the Grade Six Assessment that that child’s life is over. We have to be careful, because the system is designed in such a way that even late developers or bloomers could actually become important people and contribute to the development of society through technical and vocational education and other means,” the CEO explained.. (G8)