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Improve performance at govt schools

Denominational schools–pillar of education system
Thursday, August 28, 2014

Part 2

It is interesting but instructive when one listens to the enemies of denominational schools who are filled with rage and envy. They do not acknowledge their own lack of knowledge in their yearly exam attacks on these denominational schools. It is clear to any reasonable-minded person that those attacks are nothing but smoke screens for their own failure to achieve the standards set by denominational schools.

Some people even seek to diminish the achievements of denominational schools by referring to them as “so-called prestige schools.” This stridency against denominational schools surfaces twice a year. The first is when people seek entry for their children at the start of the academic year at primary and secondary levels, and are unsuccessful.

Achievement creates excessive demand for spaces at denominational schools at all levels of the school system—including ECCE education—and every child cannot be accommodated. At the end of each term at government schools, there are thousands of parents who seek transfers to denominational schools on behalf of their children

The second is when NCSE, CSEC and CAPE results are released and the success disparity between government and denominational schools is published. Then, there is a cry by people who demand an “even playing field” instead of searching for solutions to improve student performance at government schools.

A clamour is sounded that taxpayers’ money must be withdrawn from supporting denominational schools as if those schools have alien students and their parents or guardians are not taxpayers. But this is the type of illiteracy propagated by those who continue to preside over some of our failed schools.

Denominational schools are vastly underfunded when compared to government schools, both at the primary and secondary levels. Under the Freedom of Information Act anyone is free to verify this.

For example, a denominational secondary school with a student population of 525 receives almost 40 per cent less funding than a government secondary school. The funding for such a school comprises money for the principal to deliver the curriculum as well as money for all cleaners, handymen, etc. An inadequate grant is also given for yearly security at the schools.

The actual funds available for use by the principal is hundreds of thousands less than a counterpart at a government school receives. Additionally, the counterpart at the government school has a significantly larger cadre of security and maintenance staff as well as health and safety officers. The last two are not available to denominational school.

Yet the environment of a denominational school is always neater and cleaner than most government schools. Accountability is a key issue. While the accountability to the Minister of Education and the Ministry of Education for performance is largely neglected in government schools, denominational boards of education exact strict supervision over their principals and teachers.

Some level of underperformance exists in some denominational schools at the primary level.

But this is not allowed to fester without intervention. It is also amusing to note that while denominational schools suffer relentless attacks for their high levels of performance and while individuals wish to remove the 20 per cent intake guaranteed to each board, no critic is demanding the same for the high performing government schools such as Couva East, QRC, St George’s College, Tunapuna Secondary, San Fernando Central and Diego Martin Central.

In the SEA placement, the 20 per cent intake by Boards is predicated on inputs by Boards which are not in the domain of the secondary schools. The 20 per cent is presented as a free ride when in fact it is an invaluable cost input in maintaining standards at schools.

Denominational boards are required to source tremendous sums of money to fund school activities because of an inadequate Ministry of Education allocation. Government schools, with all kinds of staff, have the wherewithal to perform works beyond the scope of denominational schools. Without parent contributions, the standards at denominational schools will diminish over a short period of time.

It is only through the recognition and foresight of the present Minster of Education, Dr Tim Gopeesingh that a funding mechanism of $152 a student per year was implemented. It is only in recent years has the government funded totally in some respects the construction, maintenance and repairs cost at all denominational schools. For decades previously, a funding formula of 25 per cent or 33 1/3 per cent of overall costs resided with denominational boards.

It should be noted however that no Minister of Education ever had an adequate allocation to service the needs of every school in every respect, therefore, denominational schools are constantly being creative in raising funds to discharge several duties and responsibilities.

Critics must take particular note that the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha itself and its principals, staff, parents and benefactors have never accepted the role of mendicants in society. Through several efforts and great costs, the SDMS has procured lands, renovated schools, constructed new blocks and organised costly activities to service the needs of the nation. The responsibilities of denominational boards are dutifully discharged and deserve an eternal debt of gratitude by the nation.


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