Karl Samuda, the minister with responsibility for the education portfolio, says immediate action is needed to address weak performances in mathematics as nearly half of the students who sat the subject in this year’s Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examinations ended up failing the subject.
“We are in a math crisis, where 50 per cent of our schools put up candidates for tests in math, and more than half of them fail,” Samuda said as he addressed educators on the final day of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association’s (JTA) 55th annual conference in Montego Bay yesterday.
“We are lagging in terms of the percentage of schools where some are getting pass rates that are as low as four per cent of those who sit the subject,” added Samuda.
Samuda said the only passes of note in CSEC and the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) mathematics came from the nation’s top-rated schools. “Ninety-one of 171 schools fall into the category of students who sat the exam in those schools that fail, but we don’t hear anything about those. When we celebrate passes at CSEC and CAPE, we are primarily celebrating from the top 35 schools, while the majority that can’t even get to the door of an exam are left behind,” lamented Samuda.
absence of training
He said that if youth are to be equipped to contribute to national development, there needs to be a turnaround in their performance in mathematics.
“If it is that we are going to use these great assets of ours (students) to contribute to economic development, it cannot be done in the absence of training in math,” argued Samuda.
The minister’s comments came against the backdrop of a release from the Ministry of Education last Wednesday that indicated that CSEC recorded percentage passes of 54.6 in mathematics. This is a 3.2 percentage point decrease compared to last year.
In a bid to prevent the crisis from worsening, Samuda has joined the call for retired mathematics teachers to be engaged to help students grasp the concepts.
“There are many [retired teachers] out there with great skills that can be applied right now to our present situation,” said Samuda.
The three-day conference at the Hilton Rose Hall Resort in Montego Bay was held under the theme ‘Empowering Educators: Retooling, Innovating and Networking for Sustainable Development’.