Students across Mauritius received their SC results last week and the percentage of passes by school was also revealed, which this year, has decreased again. In addition, a low performance by private schools has been noted. What explains this downward trend and how can performances be upgraded?
The pass rate for the 2017 School Certificate Examinations was released on Friday 19th January by the Director of the Mauritius Examinations Syndicate (MES), Brenda Thanacoody-Soborun. Compared to last year’s results, a decrease has been noted, namely with 71.59% of the passing rate for this year against 72.01% for the year 2016. Moreover compared to the last five years, the SC results have unfortunately known a steady, gradual decrease. In 2012, the pass rate was at 75.82%.
In addition, private secondary institutions across the island have also recorded low performances at SC. Some have obtained under 25% pass rate while others that have secured above that figure have smaller groups of students who have sat for the SC exams. What could explain this low performance at the SC exams and especially at the level of private schools? News on Sunday confers with a couple of professionals in the education field to obtain an insight into the matter.
Mixed Abilities in Private Schools
Dr Coowar, Manager at Mauricia Institute, explains that no discrimination is made between high achievers and low performers. “We welcome all students as long as they are willing to learn, as from Grade 7 (Form 1). The role of the school is to polish and make the students succeed at SC level as well as at HSC level. We do not take students who have necessarily passed their PSAC. For example, when we take the students in, they follow the Grade 7 syllabus (Form 1) and sit for the PSAC again (at the same time). They will pass the PSAC with what they have acquired at Grade 7.”
Marie Claire Heerah, founder and Manager of St Nicholas Grammar School, explains that her secondary section welcomes students who have different abilities. “The obvious reason why a school like ours will not necessarily have 100% pass rate at SC is because we welcome students with different learning abilities, one of them being dyslexia. However, we are glad to note that this year, we have secured 100% pass rate at SC level in subjects like Add Maths, Arts, Biology, Business Studies, and Economy, among others. This year we had three students aged over 18 who suffered from dyslexia. We encourage these students to choose and sit for subjects where they can perform well and with which they can move up to A-Level.”
Full Day/Samputh Secondary School caters for all students from Grade 6 to Grade 13 (PSAC to UPPER 6). “We welcome all those who don't meet the criteria to join or continue in a State or grant-aided school. Either they have exceeded the age limit or they don't have the requested number of ‘credits’ to be promoted to Grade 12 (Lower 6, which they have repeated but yet failed their exams and are therefore rejected from their respective schools), explains Reshma Ramchurn, Manager of the school. She adds that the school also caters for students who are in need of special attention. “We thus rework all the syllabuses of all subjects from scratch to allow the students to catch up with all of the delays and weaknesses in any particular subject, thus allowing them to face the exams with serenity and confidence,” she says.
Plan of action needed
The Manager at Mauricia Institute does not believe that there is the need for a specialist person to encourage students and manage all private schools. “This is not a good proposal. Teachers and no one else wants an inspector to monitor their work. We need a pragmatic solution to upgrade the performance of private schools. I believe that each school should have a plan of action in order to remedy the fail rate. There is the need for a remedial proposal and work with the rector, the deputy rector and the head of department for each subject. Head of departments know best what should be done,” he utters. Dr Coowar further criticises the fact that private schools encourage low performers to sit for the GCE exams than the SC exams. “These schools use an artifice. When the low performers sit for the GCE exams, this means that high performers only take SC exams. These schools thus ensure a higher percentage of pass rates at SC level.”
Marie Claire Heerah trusts that positive motivation is needed to further encourage students to secure passes at SC exams. “Our teaching and learning is based on a well designed pedagogy which is implemented as from lower classes. What is also very important and needed is parental support. We advise the parents to at least motivate their children and keep a positive stance and this will encourage them in their studies. Unfortunately, what also affect students’ performances are family issues. It is a sad reality but children are greatly distressed when their parents separate and this tends to impact a lot on their studies,” she explains.
The manager of St Nicholas Grammar School says that emphasis should also be put on listening. “We put emphasis on ethics and moral lessons and also lend an ear to our students. Once a week, I have a face to face session with students who want to talk to us and confide in us. It is important to lend an ear to what they have to say, whether it is about personal problems or any good news as well.”
Moreover, Reshma Ramchurn states that we are not dealing with the problem at the root. As long as we do not face the reality of the situation, we therefore can’t expect any change in the SC results. Doing the same thing in the same way will never bring any change, be it the percentage of passes or non-passes.”
Regarding the low pass rate, she explains: “If all our students would have joined us at the appropriate time, much before the year they decide to do so, we would have more time in tackling their educational weaknesses and needs and the latter would have been worked upon in lower classes, thus getting them to perform better in their SC exams. On the other hand, if as a private fee paying school catering for lower and middle class family earners, we would have some financial help from the Ministry of Education, we would be able to support our students more efficiently. We still can do so but unfortunately, like in all fee paying schools, all expenses incurred are cascaded onto the parents. We want to stand out and allow students, irrespective of their family backgrounds, to be granted a second opportunity and not be restrained from continuing their studies due to financial issues. With better support and more efficiency, we can surely upgrade our performances.”
Dr Coowar explains that continuous, hard work from all students will help them to succeed. “Our SC students will cover the syllabus and we also make them practice past exam papers in all the different subjects. Moreover, our students come to school until the end of September. We do not have absentees like in mainstream schools where SC students stop coming as from July.”
The Manager of Mauricia Institute explains that special attention is given to the low performers in order to improve their performances at the exams. “These students have various academic difficulties. We thus do remedial work with them according to what they need.” He further adds that students are also quite disinterested when it comes to Maths.
“For example in Maths, we encourage students to aim for the highest grade and make them work out every exercise by providing them with marks. In this way, we provide them with work satisfaction. When they target the highest mark, it then becomes possible to obtain a pass mark so that they are able to secure credits.”
Marie Claire Heerah, on her part, states that the percentage pass rate does not bother her. “My concern and main aim is that those students with different abilities need to pass their exams. Their success is more than satisfactory. We also do not discriminate between these students and those who have no learning and academic difficulties. We have one or two students with dyslexia in each class and they follow the same programme. However, we provide them with special support and encourage them to express themselves in different ways and at different levels,” she explains.
Reshma Ramchurn explains that a lot of students have a big problem with their written skills in English. “There are also many other reasons that may contribute to the drawbacks of the students, such as the environment they live in, family situations, or the student’s own level of interest for studying.” She adds that another issue that the school faces are when some students come to them after many years of low performance in their studies.
“Sometimes, they have accumulated years of delay. Another factor is that they have not properly mastered the basics of certain subjects and this makes it difficult for us to build on it. We have to go below the required level to get the students to understand and it might take one whole year to catch up and resolve the difficulties encountered by the student, who needs also to cooperate with the school.”
Houmayoun Soobadar : “We will recruit experts to serve as guides to raise the level (of private schools)”
“Our latest SC exam results are as good, if not better in some cases, than State colleges,” said Houmayoun Soobadar, president of the Managers Private Secondary School Union (MPSSU). Following a meeting of the MPSSU on Tuesday, the members are determined to raise the performance level of students of private institutions.
“We have decided, that in the coming days, we will recruit experts to serve as guides to raise the level,” uttered Houmayoun Soobadar. According to the managers of the private secondary colleges, it has become necessary to act.
“The latest results show that only 50% of the students obtained credits in the core subjects. This shows that the whole system is not doing well and needs to be reviewed. At our level, we want to improve the situation. Otherwise it will worsen,” said the president of the association.