We can’t compare public and private schools – Director of Education

Director of Education Clare Browne
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By Carlena Knight

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Director of Education Clare Browne is insisting that private schools should not be compared to public schools as the latter must cater to the needs of all children, regardless of their academic skills.

Browne was responding to calls – in the wake of the Grade Six National Assessment results – for public schools to adopt the same system as private schools like high-achieving Baptist Academy in order to improve their success rate.

But the educator explained on yesterday’s Observer AM show that, although there are some practices public schools can emulate from their fee-paying counterparts, public schools have different challenges.

“People must understand that in the public education system we run an inclusive system,” Browne said.

“We say that in order for you to enter primary school you come with two things – your birth certificate and your immunisation card – and you gain acceptance. That is what the law says.

“We cannot in the public school system say to students, come write an entrance exam and if you don’t make it then you have to find an alternative. We are in the public education system so when schools exclude other people through those kinds of practices, the public education system is the alternative.

“There is where they come, they come to us and we have to do the best we can,” he explained.

Browne said it is frustrating when those who understand how the system works try to compare a public and private school.

“I am not knocking an institution that says that they are catering for high flyers; I have no issue with that. I have no issues with persons who don’t know about education and so on and they say maybe you should learn from certain institutions.

“I have no issue with people who don’t know, but I have an issue when people who know better, who understand education, seek to compare … a public school that offers an inclusive education to a school where if you don’t make a certain grade, you can’t come, if you can’t maintain a certain average then you can’t come,” he added.

Browne said there are several other factors like delinquent parents and language barriers that the public schools have to deal with that can also affect academic performance rates.

But the recent Grade Six National Assessments have shown that despite those factors the public school students performed well.

“In our public schools, there are plenty people and you can go ask the deputy principal of the Greenbay Primary School, Mrs Claudina Charles, how many breaks on a daily basis the kind of breakfast programme that they have to run to help children.

“You ask the people in Golden Grove and the surrounding areas how many of those students come to them and can’t speak a word of English. When you ask for the birth certificate it says Antigua and Barbuda but they are talking a different language. They are probably talking Spanish but we have to work with them.

“When you call some parents, you don’t see them. It’s teachers who end up being surrogate parents for these children but yet they come to school, teachers help them and they perform,” Browne added.

A total of 770 public school students sat this year’s exams with the sixth spot in the top 100 being claimed by Kezia Thomas of the government-run Old Road Primary School.

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