The CSEC and CAPE results are unquestionably the most anxiously awaited sets of examination results every year for secondary school students in the Caribbean. For those who left secondary school many years ago, CSEC is the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate, while CAPE is the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination.
To measure each school’s CSEC performance, EducateJamaica (www.EducateJamaica.org) calculated certain scores and ranked, by schools, the success rate for students that have end-of-Grade-11 passes, with a minimum of 5 or more CSEC subjects, including Mathematics and/or English. “Schools that are successful in turning out 80% or more achieving 5 subjects (including Mathematics and/or English), meet the Secondary Ivy League (standard),” according to EducateJamaica.
On that note, in terms of continuing improvement, the Ministry of Education, Jamaica, has announced that the new criteria for ranking will continue to measure 5 subjects or more, but will be advanced to include BOTH Mathematics AND English. This change will take effect in the year 2018.
So, how did Kingston College (KC) do in 2016? Using 2015 CSEC results, KC was ranked 20th, with an 88.6% success rate, a 5-position improvement over their performance from the previous year. Even more impressive, their performance, when ranked in the Ivy All-Boys 2016 category was # 2, edged out by just one school: Wolmer’s Boys.
Now to CAPE, or more specifically, the official Pre-University Ranking 2015. The ranking, by school, includes students obtaining two or more subjects (UNITS), with grades 1 – 3 (I – III), in the 2014 CAPE.
KC’s CAPE performance was 27th out of 82 qualifying schools, and that was a 9-position improvement over the previous year’s ranking.
With KC’s significant performance improvements in just one year, the question may very well be asked as to what may have been the key associated contributing factors. That question was posed to KC’s principal, Dave Myrie.
Principal Myrie responded that one of the main objective in KC’s development plan was the mandate for the students’ improved academic performance, particularly at the CSEC level. “Over the three years that I have been principal, our focus has been on getting both students and staff to focus on the teaching and learning process. Each year, there is a concentrated effort on making the Grade 11 cohort aware of their role in the drive for improved performance. They are reminded of the responsibility they have to continue improving the results for themselves and the school,” Principal Myrie expounded.
The principal went on to outline that, separate and distinct from the initiatives associated with the development plan, several additional initiatives were put in place. One such additional initiative clearly included improved planning and organization where school-based assessments (SBAs) were concerned. In fact, one key problem area had to do with the situation where some students were negligent in submitting SBAs, but they still sat the exams, and their doing so negatively impacted KC’s overall results.
That being the case, the principal directed that submission of SBAs was to be inextricably tied to both graduation and entry to 6th form. Students who failed to submit even ONE SBA were excluded from the graduation ceremony, and from entry to 6th form, as well. “That one change significantly improved the submission rate,” the principal opined, with pride.
Even more, there is an unrelenting drive to improve KC’s performance in Mathematics and English A. Essentially, that drive ties in with the school’s plan to be the top school in Jamaica. Specific steps have been taken in order to achieve the stated objective, and KC has seen dramatic improvements in Mathematics so far.
Along those lines, the principal revealed a full and detailed set of related and supportive initiatives, policies and practices that included the following:
1. Extra classes are held in Mathematics and English A from as early as Grade7, going all the way up to Grade 11. Students are taught after school, and concepts that the students may not have grasped in their regular classes, are explained to them in these classes, which have smaller class sizes, in terms of the number of students.
2. An accelerated program was established for students who wished to sit Mathematics in Grade 10. In order to be entered into the program, students MUST be enrolled in a reputable extra class, at Kingston College, primarily, and they must agree to sit Additional Mathematics in Grade 11. The program has progressed extremely well, with a minimum 95% pass rate over the years.
3. Each year KCOB and Mathematics super-teacher Raffic Shaw helps to prepare hundreds of students for their exams using worked solutions to Mathematics questions. The related papers are photocopied and given to ALL Grade 11 and Grade 10 students who plan to sit CSEC Mathematics. Along with the worked solutions, students are also given demonstration-CDs, which guide the students through the most important Mathematical concepts that they would need to study for the CSEC Exams. Mr. Shaw provides the CDs and solution papers free of cost to all students.
4. Mathematics and English A are tied to both graduation and entry to 6th form. Each year, students MUST pass either Mathematics OR English A among their subjects in mock exams in order to qualify academically for graduation. In some cases, they MUST pass BOTH, depending on the number of subjects that they sit. This has had a tremendous impact on results as students are very motivated by graduation. For entry to 6th form, students are also required to pass Mathematics or English A and the school is considering making both compulsory as it is believed that some students seem to take English A for granted.
5. Finally, much to their credit, there is a cadre of great, dedicated Mathematics teachers on staff. They have done a great job over the last few years and the expectations are that they will continue to excel in their work, facilitating even better results year after year.
On a separate but related note, I have had access to several well-informed and concerned parents who have children in various schools in Jamaica. Those with whom I have been in contact have identified a few of the challenges that certain schools face.
Those challenges include:
· Ongoing migration of good quality teachers, lured away by other countries with “deep pockets”
· The socio-economic state of the country
· Policies that result in schools being promoted, but those schools are not afforded the necessary resources, and
· Insufficient emphasis being placed on education in the basic and primary schools.
Considering the many challenges the schools face, the impressive performances that we see at the CSEC and CAPE levels in many schools are even more impressive than they would appear to be at first glance.