(Excerpts of the Hon. Terrance Ollivierre’s Budget Presentation)
Repeaters and Dropouts
The trend continues in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, as it relates to repeaters and dropouts. Among the Member States of the OECS, St. Vincent and the Grenadines records the highest percentage for repeaters and dropouts especially at the secondary level. Dropout rates are higher at the secondary level, especially at Form 3. We must note that male repeaters and dropouts throughout the education system are significantly higher than females.
The percentage of students exiting the system at such an early age is cause for much concern. I cannot understand why in this day and age, at this time of our development and a much touted ‘Educational Revolution’, why students are dropping out of school, even at the primary level. Addressing these problems will require both immediate actions and long term strategies, including direct interventions for the high risks students as well as plans to help restore foundational learning skills for those who had no access to the online learning platforms.
The Education Act specifies conditions under which students are excused from school. It also makes provision for School Attendance Officer, (2 currently employed) whose responsibility is to enforce compulsory school attendance in respect to children of compulsory age within the district to which they are appointed. Why then is there such a high rate of school dropouts through the education system? All students must be given the opportunity to finish school, especially their secondary education. Without a doubt, secondary education is considered to be pivotal in any education system.
The Canouan Secondary School is a success story we must continue to highlight and appreciate. Credit must be given to the people of Canouan for their perseverance and tenacity, the Developers and all who assisted in making the dream a reality. Today, the population of the school stands at one hundred (100) students from Forms 1 to 4, who are gifted with diverse abilities as they pursue and develop their capabilities under the guidance of their teachers and parents. Oh what a fantastic feeling! Some of these students may have otherwise dropped out of school because of the difficulties they faced to access education away from home, if they were not afforded such opportunities on the island of Canouan.
We must re-think the education system. This is critical to developing a skills agenda, having every child develop a skill. At the Canouan Secondary School, as with any other secondary schools, it is the NDP’s hope to see programs implemented that cater to the offering of CVQ’s and NVQ’s certification that’s linked to on- the-job training.
At Canouan, there is a huge opportunity to cater to such skills development by co-operating and working with the developments on the island – the resort and the marina providing our young people to compete for skilled jobs that other nationalities have filled. All that is required is for the Ministry of Education to provide the approved standards for the appropriate curriculum and equipping the school with the required resources and training of teachers for the delivery of these programs. This in no doubt will also provide an excellent opportunity for skills training and certification for out-of-school youths and life-long learning among adults learners.
Our people are our most precious resource and the NDP knows that our children are the future of our nation. Over the past twelve (12) years, I have been requesting funding be provided to aid the transportation cost for students and teachers travelling from Mayreau to Union Island to access and deliver education.
The Minister of Urban Development, Energy, Airport, Seaport, Grenadines Affairs and local Government, Julian Francis, stated during the debate of the Estimates that funds are available under Rental of Assets for Mayreau students’ transformation fees to access secondary education at Union Island. Again, I hope this is not an empty promise. I know of many youths who dropped out and were not afforded the opportunity to complete their secondary school education would have relished this intervention. What a big difference it would have made in the lives of those young people!
Absenteeism at CSEC and CAPE
The percentage of students exiting the system without any certification or with less than five (5) subjects should also be of cause for concern. The statistics for St. Vincent and the Grenadines indicated that in 2019, 15.5% of males and 29.3% of females achieved five (5) CSEC subjects including English and Mathematics. It is important to know the statistics for the following years. I wish to congratulate our students at CSEC and CAPE who despite all circumstances performed creditably.
However, I wish to deal with an important issue as raised by the Caribbean Examination Council – CXC. It was reported that a number of students across the Caribbean were absent from last year’s (2021) sitting of the CSEC and CAPE examinations even though they were registered for those examinations and did not defer to another sitting.
CXC has also reported that absenteeism via electronic testing or E-testing is on the rise. In its report after the 2021 results, the Caribbean Examination Council cited challenges experienced with internet access, power outages and the incorrect version of the secure browser were part of the problems experienced.
CAPE had recorded the highest level of absenteeism in the last four years. Approximately 8.3% of students did not turn up for the exams in June/July; compared to four (4%) in 2020. There was also a high level of absenteeism among CSEC students 11.23% in the region, compared to only 5.3 % last year.
In St. Vincent and the Grenadines, there was a total of 814 non-attendance for subjects at CSEC Examination 2021, with English A and Mathematics mostly affected. Is it that our students faced challenges with internet access which resulted in them being unprepared, hence, their nonattendance?