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That thorny Calabar issue

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Calabar High principal Mr Albert Corcho has provided some clarity on the controversy embroiling the school regarding promoting students to Grade 11.

According to Mr Corcho, the school's strategic plan developed in 2016 involved an ongoing assessment of the performance of teachers and students, more targeted interventions for poor performing students to include free math tutoring by members of the old boys' association, mentorship of struggling students by members of the old boys' association, free extra classes after school, academic probation, parents' meeting each term, guidance counselling, and home visits.

The school, he said, had repeatedly stressed to Grade 10 students in the CSEC programme, as well as to their parents, the need to maintain a grade average of no less than 60 per cent.

Mr Corcho also explained that on May 12, just ahead of end-of-year exams, a letter was issued to parents of prospective Grade 11 students reiterating the requirement for promotion to Grade 11 and that students with unsatisfactory grades would be given letters inviting their parents to meet with the vice-principal and dean of studies on Friday, May 25.

The letter informed the parents that some students had been pre-selected to attend mandatory summer school based on their averages over the first two terms. The school encouraged parents to send the boys to the summer school as it was clear that they had not mastered the Grade 10 syllabus.

Mr Corcho explained that after the exam results were released, the school issued a letter to parents of 316 students with grade levels below 60 per cent.

“Those who were in Grade 10 were given two options: mandatory enrolment in the school's extended day programme with probationary promotion to Grade 11; or voluntary withdrawal... and transfer to another school.”

According to the principal, of the 316 students, 276 opted to continue in the extended day programme.

Mr Corcho said the decision to ask 11 of the Grade 10 students to find alternative places came after all the interventions listed, in addition to lengthy deliberations.

The education ministry has advised Calabar that the action is in breach of the Education Regulations, which outline the conditions to be satisfied and procedures to be followed before children are booted from school.

The ministry urged the school to support the students who failed to make the 60 per cent average with the “available resources and the various services, facilities, and programmes developed by the ministry for struggling students”.

Based on the explanation by the principal, Calabar made a genuine effort to provide that support. That said, how and why did Calabar arrive at the 60 per cent threshold? We recall, for example, that the Inter Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA) has established a 45 per cent average for any four subjects as a marker. The ISSA rules require that students achieving less than that be barred from representing their schools in competitive sport.

Also, separation from school should only be a last resort and as the education ministry has said, that should only happen subject to established conditions and procedures. Even then, it seems to us, adults – not least school leaders — should regard it as a duty to help get any such student into another school.

This episode also brings to the fore the importance of parents' involvement in their children's education. That, in most cases, can make a huge difference.