Private schools vindicated with NGSA results – O’Toole
With the coalition Government opting not to revoke the highly controversial 14 per cent Value Added Tax (VAT) on private tuition and instead waiting to have it reviewed next year, stakeholders against the move have stated that the 2017 National Grade Six Assessment (NGSA) results proved that the imposition of the tax was flawed in the first place.
Among the 163 students who made up the top one per cent at this year’s NGSA examination, 86 of them are from private schools, while the remaining 77 students were from public schools. Eleven-year-old Saskia Twhair from School of the Nations secured the top spot with 523 marks from a possible total of 529.
Director of that school, Dr Brian O’Toole, who was outspoken against the VAT on education, pointed out that this year’s NGSA results are interesting since it contradicts some of the arguments that were put forward to support the move.
“A few arguments were put up about why the VAT was put into place and a couple of the statements made were that we don’t need private schools because their results are no better than the public. Whilst I don’t particularly want to be encouraging dichotomy between private and public, clearly these results show that only 400 students from private school wrote this Grade Six Assessment and a totally disproportionate number of the children from the top one hundred were from the private schools,” he outlined during an interview with Guyana Times.
The educator noted that this should be reason enough for Government not to make any policy decisions that would affect the work of private schools, which also aims to mould and build the nation’s children.
“So, really in the national interest, to do anything to punish the private schools is illogical because definitely they bring in good results for the whole of Guyana so we should be supporting, encouraging, nurturing that not putting up barriers,” the Director stated.
Dr O’Toole, who also heads Nations University, went on to reveal that as a result of the VAT on education, the school has seen approximately 100 students drop out.
Nevertheless, the educator expressed that he is proud of the efforts of those who were against the imposed taxation, particularly his school’s sixth formers, who were the ones to champion the petition with some 15,000 signatures. This figure, he surmised, is more than two per cent of the country’s population, which probably constitutes about five per cent of its voting population.
“It’s hard to ignore those kinds of numbers,” he asserted.
Since the announcement of VAT on school fees in the 2017 Budget, stakeholders, including the Opposition’s People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) and even the coalition Government’s minority party Alliance For Change (AFC), have come out condemning the move as scores of parents and students cried out against the additional burden placed on them, calling for the decision to be repealed.
However, back in April, Cabinet decided that the VAT on private education would remain in place for the rest of year and will be reviewed along with all VAT measures for the 2018 national Budget.
Meanwhile, the issue of pitting the performance of private schools against that of public schools has been described as an unfair comparison. Chief Education Officer, Marcel Hutson, on Friday pointed out that one cannot fairly compare the performance of about 450 private school students against 13,000 plus students from the public school system. A total of 13,657 wrote the NGSA examination this year.
On the other hand, Education Minister Nicolette Henry explained that within the public school system, apart from the number of students being large, they do not have a system whereby they expel children who do not perform at a certain level.
Henry continued that there will always be children whose abilities will not match their peers and so as a Government, they cannot fail those who are left behind. To this end, she said that her Ministry has recognised the importance of providing each child with the opportunity to reach their full potential.