CSEC divide between public and private schools ‘worrisome’ – Underwood

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Joan Underwood, Talent Development Specialist and Education Officer with the United Progressive Party (UPP) believes that the 2018 CSEC results have revealed a worrisome trend in the divide between the average pass rates of public schools and private schools.
The results show that private schools produce better academic performance among students than public schools, Underwood stated on OBSERVER AM yesterday.
She highlighted that while public schools have struggled to improve, on the contrary, pass rates for private schools have been increasing, resulting in a 25 percent percentage gap.
“The average pass rate for public schools for years 2014 to 2017 was 67.5 percent compared to the average pass rate for the 12 public schools [in 2018] of 63.7 percent. So, there is a four-percentage point drop,” she said.
“The average pass rate for private schools for the period 2014 to 2017 is 85.3 percent,” she said, adding, “when you look at the 2018 performance, the private schools had a pass rate of 88.5 percent. So, the gap for 2018 in terms of pass rate in the public versus the private schools is 25 percentage point.”
While Underwood did not voice a concrete indication as to the reason for the disparity between private schools and public schools, she stated that there may be some possible reasons that must be studied.
“One of [the possible contributors] may be class size because we tend to see a smaller class size in the private schools than in public schools,” she suggested.
She also added that the country’s national assessment of primary school students in Grade Six classes, may be another indicator, suggesting that the placement of students based on academic prowess was a contributor.
“Another thing that we need to look at is where do we place the top performers [in the Common Entrance]. As we know, the Antigua Grammar School and Antigua Girls High School receive the [best performing students],” she said.
Mathematics remained among one of the most worrisome subjects for students in Antigua and Barbuda.
Underwood said that she was more worried about this trend as results in CSEC Mathematics continued to decline in the country.
“If you look at 2014, our pass rate was 60 percent, in 2015, it dropped to 55 percent, in 2016, it was 42 percent and stayed at 42 percent in 2017 and now in 2018, we are down to 40 percent.”
While the region also declined overall in the subject area with a pass rate of 48.7 percent, Underwood made note of the cases of Dominica and the British Virgin Islands, who received a 55.4 percent pass rate and 77.9, percent respectively.
While Underwood believes that persons like Keondre Herbert, this year’s top CSEC student, and the top schools should be celebrated by the public, she made it clear that Antigua and Barbuda must recognise that there is an institutional problem creating these trends in the disparity of performances between private and public schools.

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