Educators struggling to get students interested in exams
Educators at three Clarendon high schools say it has been a struggle firing up students having returned to the classrooms, with many fifth-formers showing no interest in sitting their external examinations. Adrian Sinclair, principal of Alston High...
Educators at three Clarendon high schools say it has been a struggle firing up students having returned to the classrooms, with many fifth-formers showing no interest in sitting their external examinations.
Adrian Sinclair, principal of Alston High, lamented about a constant battle to get students to complete their school-based assessments (SBAs), a mandatory component of most Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) tests administered by the Caribbean Examinations Council.
“To date, our teachers have been working hard and have been pressing, they have made contact with parents, trying to assist the process of getting the students to complete the SBAs,” said Sinclair, adding that the students have to be “literally forced” to do the projects.
Even for some practical examinations, the school has to be providing supplies, including ingredients, as many turn up empty-handed.
And, although his CSEC cohort is small this year, it has been a major pain, Sinclair said, noting that student apathy has permeated the entire school.
“We are having a serious challenge. Some teachers have gone beyond the call of duty to make home visits, along with our guidance counsellors, for these students to complete their SBAs. Our students have been given the opportunity to work at the teachers’ homes, in order to get them completed, but we find that many of them, they are not interested in doing anything at all academically,” the frustrated principal told The Gleaner.
Many times during these home visits, the teachers fail to get the desired response from parents, who are just as uninterested in their children’s schooling.
“It is very, very bad, to the point where we see so many students at times absenting themselves from exams,” disclosed Sinclair, who added that many have the potential to excel, pointing to an economics student he helped last year who got an A for his SBA.
In a last-ditch effort to spark a change in attitude, Alston High brought in motivational speakers on April 12.
“Many of our boys did not turn up to the empowerment session,” Sinclair lamented. “As a matter of fact, they told us they would not be coming. They are not interested in anything.
Many students complain about not being able to afford school supplies – even a pen or geometry set – but are the same ones wearing $30,000 sneakers, Clark’s and the most expensive shoes.
“Obviously, the priority is wrong and the parents, they are also helping to get these students in a position where they are not interested. Parents are supporting the wrong habits,” he said.
Cross Keys High Principal Paul Morgan, is also facing an uphill task getting students to compete their SBAs, but the low number of students sitting CSEC exams is based largely on the fact that the pupils have not mastered enough of the syllabi.
“I couldn’t say that they don’t want to do exams, but they are very challenged in terms of matriculating to sit the exams. For example, many of them may not have enough foundation to sit the CSEC, so you have a lot of them doing alternative exams such as City & Guilds,” he pointed out.
With a fifth-form enrolment of 115, only 60 Cross Keys High students will be sitting the CSEC this year. The others will do a mixture of City & Guilds and NCTVET (National Council on Technical and Vocational Educational Training) exams.
Like Sinclair, Morgan said that attempts to engage the parents have not borne fruit, as their involvement and support remain minimal.
“I find that the teachers are the ones who tend to offer guidance and show more interest,” he told The Gleaner.
A teacher at Lennon High School, who did not want to be identified, said their struggle has been the same since the resumption of face-to-face classes after the pandemic forced lessons to move online.
“The senior students, in particular grades 11 and 12, are not interested in sitting exams, be it CSEC or any exams at all. Many of them are of the view that passing an exam is not that important, as they have several uneducated persons in their community that are doing “well”,” the teacher said.
In defending their lack of interest, the students often cite individuals driving nice cars, building houses and running bars with little or no education.
The teacher also observed that some parents seem more relieved than concerned with the truancy, as they no longer have the burden of the day-to-day expense for school.
“A few of the students also believe that they can make money by creating content and posting on platforms such as TikTok and YouTube, and that will earn the money, which doesn’t require qualification,” added the educator.
President of the National Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) of Jamaica Mitsie Harris Dillon said the organisation believes parents should be actively involved in their children’s lives.
“Active and involved parents mean better students,” she said, adding that schools need to ensure that their PTA bodies are functioning and engaging parents.
“This is more than about education. It is also ensuring that the school is functioning the way that it ought to,” Harris Dillon said, pointing out that communication and engagement between parents and teachers is critical for students to thrive.
Child Month tip
Encourage children to read, for example, stories or religious and motivational books.