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Non-traditional schools make big jump in CSEC mathematics

Published:Wednesday | August 13, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Education Minister Ronald Thwaites shows off one of the maths books after bragging of a 13 per cent increase in passes in the CSEC and CAPE Results 2014 during a press conference at the ministry's Heroes Circle offices. Looking on are Elaine Foster-Allen (right), permanent secretary in the education ministry, and Byron Buckley, director of communication. - Jermaine Barnaby/Photographer

Anastasia Cunningham, News Coordinator

Hard work, dedication, and tremendous personal sacrifice are being credited for three non-traditional high schools making a big jump in performance in mathematics in this year's Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examinations.

According to data revealed yesterday by Education Minister Ronald Thwaites, Papine High School in St Andrew recorded the biggest improvement in passes in mathematics, with a 39 percentage point increase over last year's performance.

Mona High School, also located in St Andrew, had a 26 per cent increase in its passes, while Pembroke Hall High School, another Corporate Area school, had a 13 percentage point increase in its performance.

"This shows what we can do if we apply ourselves and if the teachers and students are united in that effort," Thwaites stated at a press conference at the ministry's Kingston office where he outlined the 2014 CSEC and Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) results.

Leighton Christie, principal of Papine High, told The Gleaner that he was heartened by the results, which serve as encouragement to work even harder.

"This is very, very encouraging. It all boils down to hard work and the dedication of the teachers. We have a very dynamic head of department in Ms Millicent O'Connor, who has gone beyond the call of duty and worked really hard," he said.

Going forward, Christie said, the administration would continue to employ the strategies that are now yielding fruit, which include extended hours, workshops, intervention programmes from the education ministry, and assistance from mathematics experts at the University of Technology.


Lawrence Nicholson, chairman of Mona High, credits a combination of factors for the improved performance. A reorientation of the mathematics department, assistance from experts at the University of the West Indies, grouping of students based on their competencies, student mentoring, motivational talks, incentive programmes, and a new approach to teaching the subject were among the methods employed.

"The results are commendable. I am ecstatic! It gives me great pride, and we will be working to continue to improve our performance," said Nicholson.

Candidates who sat this year's CSEC examinations recorded an improvement in 14 of the 35 subject areas, with mathematics recording the highest jump - a 13 percentage point increase in passes -moving from 42 per cent last year to 56 per cent. A total of 23,351 students sat mathematics, an increase of 481 from last year; however, it was only 56 per cent of the full cohort.

Physics recorded the second-highest improvement in passes, with a nine percentage point increase, moving from 69 per cent to 78 per cent. Performance in additional mathematics increased by seven percentage points, from 67 per cent to 73 per cent.

Overall, the science subjects recorded the largest improvement in passes, with seven percentage points.

According to Thwaites, the improved performance in mathematics is attributable to a number of initiatives implemented in high schools under the ministry's national mathematics teams.

Among the measures employed were targeted support for 96 schools classified as weak-performing institutions; revision of the CSEC mathematics curriculum, starting from grade seven; as well as mathematics leadership workshops for all principals and heads of mathematics departments.

Thwaites said as part of efforts to continue the improvement in the subject, for the new school year, the ministry would be employing over 100 mathematics specialists, who will be assigned to the weaker schools.