Sat | Sep 23, 2017

Maths, science not be-all and end-all

Published:Saturday | August 27, 2016 | 8:00 AM


Are we too narrow-minded about the recent decline in Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate passes in mathematics and the sciences? It must be a cause for concern for all stakeholders to have a decline of 14 per cent in the pass rate, which has been blamed on the migration of maths and science teachers. Is this the only possible cause for this decline?

Let us examine the last 10 years of our mathematics passes, when our specialist teachers were in the system, and assess if we were at an acceptable level in our pass rate, especially when compared to other countries in the Caribbean during that period.

I think that we have always struggled with these subjects, with or without specialist maths and science teachers. I do believe that the departure of any qualified specialist from an organisation should have a negative effect on the organisation if similar or better competencies are not recruited.

Are there any other possible reasons for our poor pass rate in maths and science? Is our human-resource capacity chiefly the cause? What about non-human resources such as the environment for learning? Have we examined the curriculum at the primary level to ascertain why there is such a disparity with the pass rate in maths and science in GSAT and maths and science in CSEC? Are our students only prepared to pass exams at the primary level without grasping fundamental concepts so that when they go to high school, these concepts can be consolidated and expanded?


If we have a narrow assessment of the problem, we are going to have a narrow fix. If our pass rate in maths and science is predominantly based on teacher compensation, by all means, compensate the teachers of these subjects so that they won't leave, and our pass rate will be increased.

Maths and the science are very important subjects, but what about the other areas of study? Can a student enter college with only these subjects? We are focusing on problems in one area and neglecting the success gained in other subject areas.

As there is contemplation to compensate maths and science teachers better than other subject teachers, are we saying the other subject areas are not important? How would you compensate an excellent primary-school teacher who teaches all subjects or an early-childhood teacher who is qualified and doing an excellent job, especially since there is an initiative to improve early-childhood education? What will be done to keep these teachers since they don't teach maths and science?

I endorse what was said in your recent editorial: "People ought to be compensated for special skills, influenced by the demands of the market." We must be mindful that maths and the sciences are not the only subjects in high demand in preparation to satisfy market requirements. Should one sector be punished for the underperformance of another?