Education and Culture Minister Burchell Whiteman, briefing reporters yesterday about plans for the start of the new school term on Monday. - Junior Dowie
FEWER JAMAICAN and other Caribbean students scored between grades I and III in the CXC Mathematics examinations this year, and the poor results have already forced the local Ministry of Education into reviewing teaching methods to get better results next year.
At the same time a significant number of Jamaican students have performed better in English Language this year than they did last year.
Also, for the first time in the history of CXC, Jamaican school students have performed fractionally better above the regional pass rate, with 57.92 per cent of them (Jamaicans) getting matriculation grades compared to the region's 57.60 per cent.
Education and Culture Minister Burchell Whiteman told reporters yesterday at his monthly press conference at the Ministry's Heroes Circle office in Kingston, that Jamaica scored a 30.3 per cent pass rate this year in Mathematics compared to last year's 37.4 per cent, marking a 7.1 per cent decline.
Additional figures The Gleaner received yesterday showed that 16,558 Jamaican students sat Maths this year, compared to 16,095 last year. A total of 67,710 students sat the paper in the Caribbean this year compared to 69,481 last year.
Mr. Whiteman added that the Caribbean registered a 32.1 per cent pass rate in Mathematics this year compared to a 39.2 per cent high last year telling signs which he said were matters of serious concern.
"Clearly we are seeing a bit of a see-saw, because in the 1980s and early 1990s, Mathematics (pass rate) was very low across the region. In the latter part of the 1990s, it started to climb and now it has declined again, so clearly there's work to be done and we'll have to address that in some serious way," he said.
Meanwhile, the Education Minister said it wasn't in Jamaica and the Caribbean alone that Mathematics was posing a problem, but that students in the United States were also having the same difficulties.
"I don't know whether we are making the subject too abstract now and perhaps demanding too much at certain levels," Mr. Whiteman said. "I've heard the view advanced by British educators that we are expecting a higher level of mathematical understanding, comprehension and performance than the age level and experience of the students would indicate."
He said some years ago, the Ministry of Education had collaborated with CXC to train teachers to re-examine the way Maths is taught so the results could be improved.
This, he said, was in addition to Mico Teachers' College recruiting male teachers to teach Mathematics. Despite these efforts, Mr. Whiteman said his Ministry will have to locate and correct the current poor, unacceptable Maths passes for Jamaica.
"It is something we have to perhaps get back to the drawing board on, because I had hoped last year that when we saw this 37 per cent movement up from the low 30s (per cent), that we were now on the thrust of a movement to take us into the 40s (per cent) and then ultimately get over that 50 per cent barrier. (But) now we have to look again," he said.
Meanwhile, Jamaica registered a 10 per cent increase in the number of English Language passes. This year's figure stands at 57.9 per cent compared to 47.9 per cent in 2000. A total of 18,768 students took the exam this year compared to 18,316 last year. Regionally, 71,832 students sat English Language this year against last year's 70,237.
There was also a better performance in Physics this year. The Minister pointed out that there was a 43.1 percentage pass rate this year compared to last year's 39.3 per cent.
However, Mr Whiteman said, there was a decline in the pass rate in Caribbean History this year, with Jamaican students registering a 67.7 per cent pass rate compared to last year's 70.4 per cent. A reduced 67.5 percentage pass rate was obtained for regional History students this year, compared to 69.4 per cent last year.
In Information Technology (IT), Jamaican students registered a 75 per cent pass rate in the general proficiency level and 91 per cent in basic proficiency. The regional pass rates for the two categories were 89 per cent and 90 per cent respectively.
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