Math improvement starts at the foundation, Director of Education says

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By Latrishka Thomas

The Ministry of Education is reassuring the public that it has not neglected secondary school students in poorly performed areas such as mathematics, but rather has undertaken strategies to ensure that the very foundation of Antigua and Barbuda’s educational system is prepared to take on the world of academia.

“The challenges that we have been facing in mathematics is not unique to this territory solely but we take little comfort in that. There is work to be done. You would have realized that at the Grade Six Assessment when we released those results earlier that would have been an improved performance in math. Improvement in math would have to start down at the foundational level,” Director of Education, Clare Browne said during an interview.

This was after considering that the overall pass rate in the 2019 Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) mathematics examination was 40 percent, which is similar to that of last year.

“We are still in the 40 percent area now; we want to begin to move upwards. We have moved in terms of the primary and we have focused out attention at the foundation and we will continue to do a lot of work at the foundational level … just to focus everything on the fifth form level is kind of putting a band aid on a wound. That is not a long-term solution for math. In some cases, we have to go back to basics.”

And in noting that this issue is not unique to shores of the twin island, Browne made a commitment to improving the situation.

“Things are never instant, and we would have indicated last year that we were taking certain measures to improve or look at our math situation as we look at all our other subjects. The Ministry of Education is taking the position that just as we have been paying deliberate attention to literacy, we need to pay deliberate attention and have been doing so to numeracy,” Browne said.

The Director of Education said some are measures already in place to ensure the continued progress of students.

 “Teacher competence, teacher confidence – those things are critical in moving the needle so far as student outcomes in mathematics and any other discipline is concerned. So we are continuing to work with our teachers; trying to help them to develop through the Professional Development (PD) opportunities and our PD opportunities are focused on the school level…we have to go into our schools and see how our teachers are teaching; mentor; monitor … so we are doing it at that level. And as I said things are not going to be instant; we have to be in this for the long haul,” he added,

Also, he said that the Ministry of Education has made scholarships available for the betterment of both teachers and students.

“One of the things that we are doing, too, is to allow for our teachers [are given] opportunities through the Board of Education scholarships to go to pursue degrees in mathematics so as to build the content,” Browne stated.

But beyond that, the Director of Education noted the importance of regional integration in education. He said that the OECS Education Management Unit is also engaged in ongoing discussions with the various territories to further developing a community of practice to strengthen mathematics.

“There are ways and means of exchanging where we see good practices and strengths. Then we find a way to share ideas, share information, allowing our math teachers to experience the best practices out there,” Browne said.

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