The results are in for the PSE and on Friday night we had a small overview of the test scores. As we noted, the national averages increased in across the board in English, Math, Science and Social Studies. Improvement was most substantial in science where the national average was just a shade under 70% - that's up from 50% in the year two thousand. And this year also saw the greatest number of students getting perfect scores in English and Math. We spoke to thirteen of the top finishers.
Siian Rancharan, First, Hummingbird Elementary
"I expected to do well, but I didn't expect to be number 1. I thought I would be in the top 25. I am really happy that I came out number 1. Most kids were definitely nervous because it's a nationwide national exam and all of us are really not mentally ready to take a test that is big for us. Some of us feel that it's going to be the last thing they are going to do. I think it was pretty exciting to me one time also."
Deanna Gibson, Second, Pancotto Primary
"I study, anything my teacher taught me I make sure I go home and I study every single day. But then right around when it comes to take the test I make sure I don't do anything because I didn't want to stress out before it was time."
"Who helped you to prepare for this exam?"
"Anybody that I could find. My teacher Ms. Lisa, my friends, Ms. Davis, anybody I could find. They were willing to help me."
Kelsey Musa, Tied Third, Belize Elementary
"Basically I just took my time in doing the exam. I kind of knew I was doing alright, but I didn't think I would do that good."
Clement Chun, Fourth, St. Francis Xavier
"My mom, she helps me out a lot. She cares for me a lot. Before the PSE whenever I go home she would tell me to do my best."
Nadiya Sedasey, Tied Fifth, St. Ignatius R.C.
"I feel great. I feel honored."
Alexander King, Tied Fifth, Hummingbird Elementary
"I expected to come in the top 10 but not the top 5. It's good to come in the top 5."
"Ok, since there is a six way tie for fifth, I think we should have like a playoff. Would you be prepared to do that?"
"Yes. I would beat all of them."
Mishek Musa, Tied Fifth, Hummingbird Elementary
"I was pretty sure I did well because it's kind of not that challenging as I thought it would be."
"How do we propose we settle this 6 way tie?"
"Just put me first."
Demi Peyrefitte, Tied Seventh, St. Ignatius R.C.
"I feel so happy that I did so well."
"Are you surprised?"
"Well, kind of because I knew that with all the preparation from my teachers that I would do good. I am still kind of shocked a little."
Simran Hotchandani, Tied Seventh, Belize Elementary
"I went over my teachers' notes and I pay attention in class and that's basically how I prepared for the exam."
Christian Cansino, Tied Ninth, Belize Elementary
"I just tried not to get nervous and I just took my time and did it. It's just pretty easy work."
Shane Galvez, Tied Ninth, St. Ignatius R.C.
"Don't study before the PSE, try to relax or take a day off or something. Don't go into the PSE room pressured or nervous because it will throw off your concentration."
Alexis Musa, Tied Eleventh, Belize Elementary
"You have to listen to your teachers and go over all the stuff you learnt in the past 3 years of school."
Jeremy Quinto, Tied Eleventh, Belize Elementary
"I was surprised, I really didn't expect to be in the top 25."
"What do you say to the Standard 5 students who will take this exam next year?"
"Do their best, nobody is perfect, but to do their best."
"Have a high self esteem in yourself. Study hard and don't listen to the people who are doubting you because you will just bring yourself down."
"Listen to your teachers and your parents. Go over all your notes and take your time in doing the exam, know what you want to do, make sure you know your information and just believe in yourself."
And while there is much to celebrate in those promising children, the fact is that they are what statisticians call outliers - their grades are not reflective of how children performed in the main. The fact is that 40% of the 6,667 students - almost half - got an E or an F - and almost half failed math. Head of the Examinations Unit Yvonne Davis discussed the general trends and the worrying issues with us:...
Yvonne Davis, Head of the Examinations Unit
"This year we have an increase in the main performance of all of the subjects and not necessarily an improvement when we look at the trend from 2000 to now."
"When you were going over results initially, when the raw data was being fed what jumped out at you? What made you raise your eyebrows."
"A number of things but in particular for me it was the number of persons who were able to achieve 100 percent on the math paper. For the first time this year we have 40 persons getting 100 percent on paper one, we have 39 persons getting 100 percent on paper two, which is the most challenging paper on this test. Overall, we have about 12 persons receiving 100 percent on both papers."
"12 persons with 100 percent full mark is impressive but what's depressing is that 3,220 students got less than 50 percent in math. A failing grade for half the test takers."
"It's worrisome and math has been the one subject that has been tailing, has taken the tail end ever since we've been testing. There needs to be indeed a critical look at how math is being taught and a study into the attitudes of children toward math and even the teachers, the attitude of teachers toward math. That could probably be one of the reasons we keep on seeing what we are seeing."
"That has to pain you to see that over 3,000 children are getting less than 50 percent in math. Somebody is failing and it's not these kids. These kids are ones who end up with the brunt of it. Somewhere in the system somebody is failing and while these kids are forever tainted the adults who are failing them are not losing their jobs. Their pay is not getting docked. Do you see what I am saying? There appears to be some inequality."
"Which is why I allluded to the fact earlier that everybody has to play a role. We've noticed this is our weak area. we need more people to come on board. The Ministry has to also take a look at how math is being addressed in schools and provide the kind of support that schools need, that teachers and students need to help them improve in this area."
"It looks like we might need a complete revamping of how we teach math or how we approach the syllabus."
"We need more schools to do internal assessment. Schools need to look critically at what they are doing."
In terms of district performance, Orange Walk did best, followed closely by Corozal, flowed closely by Cayo, and then Belize City. Trailing Orange Walk by over twenty points were Stann Creek and Toledo.