Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Assessing Competing Perspectives: A Critical Analysis of Guyana's National Grade Six Assessment

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Assessing Competing Perspectives: A Critical Analysis of Guyana's National Grade Six Assessment

Article excerpt

Introduction

Originally a Dutch colony in the 17th century, by 1815 Guyana had become a British possession. The abolition of slavery led to settlement of urban areas by the former enslaved population from Africa (30.2%) and the importation of indentured servants from India (39.8%) to work the sugar plantations (10.5% indigenous population), together comprising about three quarters of Guyana's population. In 1966 Guyana achieved independence from the UK, and since then it has been ruled mostly by socialist-oriented governments. Guyana is the only English-speaking country in South America and shares cultural and historical bonds with the Anglophone Caribbean. About one-third of the Guyanese population lives below the poverty line; indigenous people are disproportionately affected. Guyana's literacy rate is reported to be among the highest in the Western Hemisphere, the level of functional literacy, however, it is considerably lower, which has been attributed to poor education quality, teacher training, and infrastructure.

Thus, a number of competing perspectives on the National Grade Six Assessment in Guyana and its implementation has created an achievement gap between children that attend private schools and children that attend public schools. To systematize the analysis of these perspectives, the discussion will thematically be presented in three parts: (1) Historical Context of the National Grade Six Assessment, Public and Private Schools and the Extra-Lessons Syndrome, and the Achievement Gap; (2) Theoretical Implications; and (3) Conclusions. Before presenting the analysis of the findings, it is important to discuss in the reminder of this section the importance of the assessment and the critical analytical approach that undergirds this essay.

The National Grade Six Assessment (NGSA) highlights some of the issues in the education system in Guyana. The assessment is a high stakes examination that is used as a tracking tool for students transitioning from the primary schools to the secondary schools. Students that did not score the required marks for entry into the top secondary schools are regulated to schools that focus more on the vocational aspect of education (Ishmael, 2012). Parents, cognizant of the importance of the examination as a tracking tool wanted to give their children a competitive edge over the other children taking the exam. Parents, on the one hand, began to pressure teachers that had good success rates on the examination to give private tutoring to their children. Teachers, on the other hand faced with economic difficulties and low salaries began to charge fees to tutor students for the NGSA (Ministry of Education, 2004, 2009). Consequently, an inequitable pattern emerged, families that can afford the cost of tutoring and/or private schools would choose that option; low income families that cannot provide or do not have the resources to pay for extra lessons and/or private schools risk the possibility of their children becoming educationally disadvantaged. This systemic issue has created an achievement gap between children of affluent parents and children of low income parents.

It behooves me to briefly state what critical analysis approach is before proceeding with the interrogation of the competing perspectives, since it is the technique that is employed to ground the examination that follows. Critical analysis necessitates the establishment of a sound comprehension of the various perspectives on a topic. This is accomplished by pinpointing and elucidating the viewpoints of the authors and furnishing the contretemps deduced from their arguments. This calls for the analysis to assess the distinctiveness, discernibleness, suggestiveness, and theoretical merits of the studied works.

Historical Context of the National Grade Six Assessment, Public and Private Schools and the Extra-Lessons Syndrome, and the Achievement Gap

The analysis on this theme focuses on the exam that preceded the National Grade Six Assessment in Guyana, which was first introduced in Great Britain in 1944, and it was called the Common Entrance Exam (Barrow, 2012). …

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