Schools remain closed for February – Education Minister
…says NGSA likely for July/August
Education Minister Priya Manickchand has announced that schools in Guyana would remain closed for face-to-face learning for February 2021, except for Grades 10, 11, and 12 in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
After several discussions with stakeholders, these grades were reopened in October 2020, to facilitate the sitting of the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) exams and the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations (CAPE), which are administered across the Region by the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC).
“All the other grades will continue to be engaged in the way that they are engaging. We are advised by the Ministry of Health that we cannot reopen any other grade and level at this point,” Manickchand noted.
In the meantime, the Education Ministry has been working to deliver the curriculum on other platforms, especially through online teaching, the Guyana Learning Channel, Interactive Radio Instructions, and through the distribution of worksheets and other printed learning materials.
The Ministry has already embarked on a massive training programme to equip teachers with the skills needed to deliver teaching in the new circumstances. Several businesses have donated tablet computers to the Education Ministry to assist students who do not have the necessary equipment to access online classes.
Meanwhile, the National Grade Six Assessment (NGSA) for 2021 has been postponed from March/April and is likely to be written in July/August.
“If we were to say what we will do now, it would be premature because we don’t know what the country will look like regarding the COVID and we don’t know what the advice from the Ministry of Health will be in let’s say two or three months. We know for sure that the exam will not be held in March/April which is usually when it is held. It is going to be pushed back to July/August,” Manickchand said.
According to the Minister, the Education Ministry is unable to announce a date for NGSA 2021 because CXC has not announced dates for CSEC and CAPE and the country may not have the capacity to run three major examinations at the same time and maintain the high integrity of those exams.
“So, because we may not be able to run CSEC, CAPE, and NGSA at the same time we want to hear CXC’s dates before we schedule our NGSA. As soon as we have a date, we promise to let the nation know.”
The Minister had previously stated that since the NGSA was a placement examination administered locally, the Education Ministry can decide when and how to set it. “It’s a placement exam. It’s not an assessment to determine whether you’re bright or not. It’s an assessment to place students. Are there other ways we can place students fairly to secondary school?”
The Ministry has been consulting with parents and teachers on what format the examinations will take. According to Manickchand, the most desirable option would be to have what everyone is most accustomed to, that is, Papers One and Two examinations which have been the most popular among stakeholders.
“The most popular option among stakeholders is a Paper One and Paper Two mostly up to the level of Grade Five.” Also discussed was not having an assessment at all. Minister Manickchand has already assured that the absence of these assessments will have no negative impact on children’s records.
The 2020 NGSA was pushed back to July/August 2020. During that time, concerns were raised by many parents about their children’s safety given the health risks associated with COVID-19.
The Chief Education Officer then, Ingrid Trotman had noted that the ministry was not forcing students to write the exams and that students who chose to opt-out would be placed in a secondary school closest to their home.