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Equip science labs for better CSEC results - Skeffery

Published:Friday | August 14, 2015 | 8:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin
Minister of Education Ronald Thwaites and Chief Education Officer Grace McLean (right) speak with members of the media on the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate results while Sheryl Bromfield, public relations and communications officer in the education ministry, looks on during a press conference at the ministry's office in Kingston yesterday.

Teacher-turned-Government senator Wensworth Skeffery, has pointed to the need for equipped science laboratories, in addition to a change in how science subjects are taught, as possible solutions to a significant decline seen in the subject area, in Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) results released yesterday.

Both additional mathematics and integrated science declined by 7.7 percentage points, biology declined by nine percentage points, chemistry by 13.5, physics by 15.5 and human and social biology by 17.5 percentage points.

Education Minister Ronald Thwaites said during a press conference yesterday that while there was a 6.5-percentage-point increase in mathematics, science subjects have shown worrying signs.

Radley Reid, senior adviser to the minister, in explaining the declines in some subject areas, noted they resulted from a combination of weakness in teaching methodologies and changes that were made.

"There were changes in the syllabus, the last change being made in 2004, and then we had a change, for which the first exams were set in 2015. Looking at the profiles, particularly for chemistry, I would want to believe that those changes were overlooked or not taught," he explained.

"Also, the SBA (school based assessment) is now moderated by the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) and I looked again at the scores for experimental skills. We did observe that the students performed better in that area (experimental skills) than other profiles for knowledge and use of knowledge. This tells us that if students can do well in the practical area, we will certainly have to capitalise on that. Going forward as a ministry, we have to get to our teachers and assist them to teach science the way it is to be taught - by experimentation," the senior adviser told the gathering.

 

hands-on learning

 

Skeffery, speaking with The Gleaner, echoed similar sentiments, noting that the results should propel more focus in ensuring that the ministry's objective in promoting STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects is achieved.

"It has to be more than a lecture and talk approach, but an approach which will give students that hands-on learning," the former physics teacher said.

"A critical aspect also has to be the need for proper science labs to be implemented within our schools. It's good to have competent teachers with content and knowledge, but if the various tools and material are not included, there will still be a deficit. There has to be a practical approach," he said.

In the meantime, Thwaites stressed that serious work has to be done to improve the output of students in that area while pointing to the way forward.

"We are troubled by this and the truth is, we have a shortage of qualified science teachers in Jamaica.

Science, after all, is the prism through which employment and development is going to take place in this country," the minister said.

"We will, therefore, be providing 100 scholarships and bursaries for individuals interested in pursuing bachelor's degrees in secondary education, specialising in mathematics or science, specifically, physics, chemistry and biology. Seventy scholarships will be made available to mathematics-education students and the remaining for those pursuing science-education degrees, starting September 2015," he declared.