THE Ministry of Education seems to want a participation prize.
After the national exam results came out, it was quickly clear that they were significantly lower than previous years.
That’s probably not a surprise, given the year we’ve been through, the switch to remote learning for students and perhaps the greater communications difficulties some students might have when wanting to ask a teacher for more help.
It’s even less of a surprise when you look at the number of students who were unable to log in to the virtual learning platforms for whatever reasons. Perhaps they didn’t have electronic devices they could use. Perhaps they didn’t even have power or internet because their family is having to scrap and save to pay every bill with more people out of work than ever.
So yes, it might be expected that there would be a drop in results – but the ministry appears to want to sell us a dinghy and call it a yacht.
“When we talk about the exams being a success,” says Assistant Director of Education Evelyn Sawyer, “it is more than just looking at the students who got As, Bs, Cs and Ds all right. We have to look at the mere fact that we were able to complete the examinations, administer the exam and complete it makes it a success.”
So just because you were able to hold the exams means that they were a success? How does that help the students coming out with lower grades and looking to compete in the education or jobs market against those with higher grades from earlier years?
That doesn’t look like much of a success to them.
Education Minister Jeff Lloyd talked about “misleading claims about the results” without specifying what those claims were, and pledged to “set the record straight” while declining to point out where the record was wonky.
He went on to fail to set any record straight but talked vaguely about how “no one can identify any perfect education system” while declining to note that there are a number of international measures that rank nations according to educational achievements or setting out which countries the government is learning from. He said students perform well where there are common denominators of “balance of political will, a bi-partisan shared vision for education, a high level of school leadership, the support of key stakeholders, excellent teachers and students and parents who appreciate the importance of education”.
Frankly, that’s just a string of buzzwords that doesn’t detail how the government is helping to make these things happen. What’s happening to hire and train teachers? What’s happening to ensure parents are closely involved? Honestly, what’s happening to reach those students who haven’t been logging on to take part in classes or to ensure those without electricity have a chance to join in?
Mr Lloyd went on to “declare unequivocally that the entire examination exercise was a success. It was worth the financial, emotional, mental, physical and psychological cost”.
The cost to who, Mr Lloyd? The cost to the futures of children whose resumé will look less impressive than that of their peers from a year earlier?
This talk of not focusing on the results is simply gaslighting. The results are what determine children’s futures.
Worse, without recognising that the children themselves are suffering a worse outcome, there will be no change for the next year’s students if we still find ourselves beset by COVID-19.
There are absolutely unique challenges that have been faced in staging these exams. But let’s not pat ourselves on the back simply for having shown up. The results are the important outcome – because those shape the futures of our children.
Sex for survival
In a sad story today, we report that many members of the LGBTQI community are turning to sex work to make ends meet.
This so-called “survival sex” is exactly what it sounds like, people selling their bodies to be able to pay the rent or put food in the cupboard.
There will be some who shrug and dismiss it because this isn’t their community – but the truth is this will be happening in all communities. This year has hit people economically like no other, and desperation to survive is driving people to do things they might never normally contemplate.
It is a reminder to us all that those of us in a position to help must continue to do so. People are in need – anything we can do to lessen the desperation can make the world of difference.