Old boys lash Educate Jamaica over ranking system

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Old boys lash Educate Jamaica over ranking system

BY KIMBERLEY HIBBERT
Senior staff reporter
hibbertk@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, November 01, 2020

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FOUR of Jamaica's noteworthy traditional high school alumni associations have taken aim at the annual Educate Jamaica Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examination ranking of local high schools, labelling the independent assessment as flawed.

The St George's College (STGC), Jamaica College (JC), Kingston College (KC) and Wolmer's Boys' School (WBS) old boys are asserting that the methodology employed by Educate Jamaica to rank the CSEC performance of high schools needs to be reassessed as it only considers subjects students sit in grade 11, disregarding passes a child may have obtained in prior grades.

Roger Thompson, one of the directors of the STGC Old Boys' Association (OBA) told the Jamaica Observer that because of Educate Jamaica's methodology, some high schools force students to redo subjects they've passed before in order for its ranking to not be impacted.

“You're putting unnecessary pressure on students to be doing nine, 10 subjects in one sitting because if subjects are done earlier, Educate Jamaica counts them as failures as they are only looking at grade 11 scores. If you can get off that additional burden in fourth form, why place additional burdens on students?” Thompson questioned. “Twenty-five boys took mathematics in grade 10 at STGC. All 25 grade ones. This performance will not be captured by the Educate Jamaica ranking.”

Similar sentiments were shared by Major Basil Jarrett, president of JCOBA, who charged that Educate Jamaica's ranking was laughable if it meant that doing subjects earlier than grade 11 would negatively impact a school's ranking.

“The JCOBA stands in support of our brothers over at St George's because it hurts to know that a monumental achievement such as an entire fourth form getting grade ones in mathematics will actually do more harm than good to the school's reputation next year, when none of these boys are able to count as having passed five subjects, including maths and English, in one year. That's laughable,” Major Jarrett said.

He added: “Our very own Jovaughn Blake's results also need mentioning, because here you have a marvellous athlete who is also a marvellous student. Jovaughn is able to thrive both on the track and in the classroom because of the approach we take to learning at JC. If a youngster has the talent and the skills to take an external exam early, then why deny him that opportunity just to score some points for the rankings? We allow our boys to take maths, English and any other subject that they are capable of doing before they reach fifth form, and this allows them to reduce the workload in their final year and maximise the full high school experience. I can understand that some schools prevent this because they want a higher place in the rankings, and so I believe that Educate Jamaica needs to create a more equitable and just system of ranking the academic performance of high schools such as JC, where we focus on the full development of well-rounded individuals.”

Likewise, Kirk Benjamin, former president and current executive member of the Wolmer's Old Boys' Association, said Educate Jamaica rankings are flawed and paint a false sense of what is happening in schools.

“When you have students who have potential, why would you want to hold them back just for the schools to have a better ranking? You don't want to do that, but at the same time when you push them ahead it affects the ranking of the school and then other students don't want to go to a school that isn't ranked as highly as another one,” he said.

Benjamin added that a few years ago a cohort of grade 10 students at Wolmer's High School for Girls did CSEC maths and received a grade one. However, because it was done in grade 10, when those girls got to grade 11 it would not be counted in their passes as it was not in the grade 11 year.

“Now that would affect the overall ranking of the school and put them behind another school which says we're not allowing you to do CSEC until you reach fifth form, as they want to ensure the school maintains a higher ranking. Is it fair to the school and is it a fair narrative when you say this school has 'X' students that have matriculated at this level when that is not the case? Regardless of the fact they sat in fourth form, because they didn't take it in fifth form they are now part of the denominator. They will not be added to the numerator even though they have passed. Perhaps come up with a better methodology? I'm not certain if it is they could work more closely with the school,” Benjamin said.

Member of KCOBA, Maurice Weir said the ranking system, as far as the KC management team is concerned, is a total waste of time. “It does not provide a true reflection of what happens to a cohort of students over a five-year period. KC, on average, takes in 320 to 340 boys in a cohort every year. If you were to work out the average of what we take in at first form, I would say it would probably be about 75 to 82 per cent averages. We are being asked to compare what we take in to [those] schools which take cohorts of much, much less —maybe half — but the average of that cohort is above 95 per cent. They are starting with a distinct advantage of about 20 percentage points over what we take in,” Weir said.

Ainsworth Darby, founder and chairman of Educate Jamaica, responded to the criticisms by first rubbishing the notion that his company only assesses the results of subjects done in grade 11.

“We want to see how schools are doing as it relates to the end of this 11 or 14 years of formal education. Our measure for that is five subjects including maths and/or English. This thing about us not counting subjects done prior to grade 11 is not true. We write to the school asking every school to ensure that they count passes done prior to grade 11 and in brackets we put 'seven to 10'. If they did it in grade seven, eight, nine or 10, we want it. If you read the exact wording of what we write to schools, it says we would like to ascertain the percentage of your cohort that has completed five years of secondary education, having achieved five subjects – maths and/or English included. We didn't say when they get it, we said when they finish — exit grade 11. When they've done their exams in June and leave, how many leave with five subjects, maths and/or English? That's what we're asking. We have not stipulated where or when they do it,” Darby said.

Darby added: “We go to the MOE through the Access to Information Act. We suspect the information provided by the ministry is very flawed, so to verify [that] we have accurate information, we write to every school. Any information that is published in our rankings is provided by the school, and we ask every single school — every year in e-mails, in conversations — to please ensure that it includes all exams passed prior to grade 11. We've not had any issue with that so why are schools still hiding behind this? Unless those saying these things are not privy to the information being given to me. I liaison with the principals who put me on to the exam coordinators, who give the figures to me.”


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