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A ranking of schools
published: Monday | August 4, 2003


Stephen Vasciannie

ON THE basis of performance in English Language in the CXC for June 2002, Table 1 ranks the top 20 schools in Jamaica.

Table 1 ­ Top 20 Performance Levels, English Language, CXC, June 2002

SCHOOL % PASSES
1. Campion 98%
2. Immaculate 94%
3. Westwood 88%
4. St. Andrew's88%
5. Mount Alvernia 87%
6. Ardenne 87%
7. Wolmer's Girls' 85%
8. Bishop Gibson 85%
9. Hampton 83%
10. MoBay High 80%
11. Holy Childhood79%
12. Kingston College 78%
13. Alpha Academy 78%
14. Marymount 78%
15. St. Hugh's 78%
16. York Castle76%
17. Wolmer's Boys' 74%
18. Glenmuir72%
19. St. Hilda's72%
20. Manning's 71%

The method of calculating the ranking is explained in last week's column. Tables 1 and 2 were inadvertently omitted from that column. It is sufficient to say here that in most cases the figure for percentage passes is obtained by dividing the total number of students who have obtained Grades 1, 2 or 3 in the examination by the total number of students in the eligible cohort for the school (i.e. the number of students in Grade 11 at each school).

RELIGION

The calculations are based on information set out in the book Performance of Jamaican Students in the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) 2002, published by the National Council on Education (NCE). I am grateful to the NCE for their important work in data collection. I am also grateful to Sister Angella Harris, the Principal of Mount Alvernia, for pointing out, in a very kind way, that the figures for Mount Alvernia in last year's NCE publication were incorrect. My comment on Mount Alvernia's performance for last year was therefore inaccurate, and, given that it understated Mount Alvernia's performance, I apologise.

It is noteworthy that schools with strong religious connections tend to predominate among the top 20 schools for English Language. This is perhaps not surprising, for most of the traditional high schools emerged historically on strong Christian foundations. The religious connection does raise the question, though, as to whether those religious schools that are not performing well have special problems.

Another broad observation about English Language performance takes us to the familiar, but nonetheless important, question of gender. Of the schools in the top 20 in Table 1, the first boys' school to appear, Kingston College, is at number 12, and the only other boys' school in the top 20 is Wolmer's Boys', at number 17. Campion, Ardenne, Glenmuir and Manning's are mixed schools in the top 20, and all others are institutions devoted exclusively to girls.

This, then, is yet another manifestation of male underperformance; and it highlights the fact that the society needs to find ways to improve male attitudes to education without undermining the good work being done by girls at several girls' schools.

Table 2 sets out the top 20 schools based on performance in the Mathematics in the June 2002 CXC Examination.

Table 2 ­Top 20 Performance Levels, Mathematics, CXC, June 2002

SCHOOLS % PASSES
1. Campion 98%
2. Immaculate 89%
3. Kingston College73%
4. Wolmer's Girls' 68%
5. Wolmer's Boys' 68%
6. St. Andrew's67%
7. MoBay High 66%
8. Ardenne 61%
9. Glenmuir 60%
10. Holy Childhood56%
11. Munro55%
12. Westwood55%
13. Hampton 54%
14. Alpha Academy 53%
15. Bishop Gibson 50%
16. Morant Bay 49%
17. Calabar 45%
18. Cornwall43%
19. DeCarteret 43%
20. Mount Alvernia41%

There is, to be sure, a significant overlap between Tables 1 and 2, suggesting that the schools that did well in English Language for 2002 also performed satisfactorily in Mathematics. This is especially true for Campion and Immaculate, which head both Tables, as well as for St. Andrew's, Wolmer's Girls', Ardenne and MoBay High which are among the top 10 for both categories.

GENDER

At both secondary and tertiary levels, some people have traditionally assumed that boys are more inclined to success in Mathematics than they are in English Language ­ a distinction, they say, which reflects itself in boys being drawn in larger numbers to the sciences, with girls being pulled more naturally to the arts. If it exists, this distinction may be based on cultural and social assumptions, and not on any natural predispositions of men and women.

Nevertheless, it is interesting to note that ­ relatively speaking ­ the performance of boys' schools appears slightly better for Mathematics than it is for English Language. Specifically, Kingston College is in third place for Mathematics (versus 12th place for English) and Wolmer's Boys' is fifth for Mathematics (as against 17th for English). Also, Munro, Calabar and Cornwall are in the top 20 for Mathematics, though they do not reach this category for English.

Before boys' schools consider exclamations of delight, however, we should notice that performance in Mathematics is generally lower than performance in English Language. The point then is that boys' schools have moved up in Table 2 (as against Table 1) primarily because the girls' schools did not perform well in Mathematics in June 2002.

Is there any point in ranking schools on the basis of performance? Again, I acknowledge that academic performance will reflect in large part the quality of the input received by the high school following the GSAT; and, again, I accept that there is more to school than examination results. It remains true, though, that schools are established primarily to promote academic achievement. If they do so, their success should be celebrated; if they do not, they should be challenged to reach greater heights.

Stephen Vasciannie is Professor of International Law and Head of the Department of Government at the University of the West Indies, Mona, and consultant in the Attorney-General's chambers.

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