Editorial, The Reporter

It is easy to see how more time in the classroom translates into better productivity and better student performance. Malcolm Gladwell, author of the bestseller The History of Success, notes in his book that the only reason why children fall behind is that there is not sufficient classroom study time.
The United States require all primary schools, both private and public, to have 180 days of classroom time. If for any reason one or more days are missed, the teachers are required to make them up. In Israel, in Singapore, in Finland and in South Korea, countries in the top echelon of education, education authorities require 200 days a year of classroom time for primary schools.

What can we say about our education system here in Belize? Are we devoting enough time and attention to our boys and girls of elementary grades?

What do the primary schools examination tell us?

The PSE has been telling us for years that our children are weak in reading comprehension and in math- the two key areas which are essential disciplines for intellectual growth.

The PSE is the only countrywide examination we have in Belize to test the knowledge and competence of our elementary school students on a national scale.

We donít have countrywide examinations like other countries have to test our students at the intermediate stage (usually Std. III) before they reach the eighth grade (Standard VI). The result is that we have to wait until PSE to learn that our students are weak in Math, Reading and Comprehension.

The only people we know of who test for learning efficiency after five years of primary school are BRC, the publishing house in Benque Viejo del Carmen run by Deacon Cal Cathers M.A., and his son Paul PhD. BRC has been writing and publishing textbooks for primary schools for years.

They have been publishing reading and math books for grades up to Standard III, made in Belize for Belizean students, and these books have been used in Catholic and non-Catholic schools all over the country with great success. To make sure they stay on track, BRC has been conducting tests to see how children from Infant I to Std. III children are doing.

The latest test results show that while on the national average 70 percent of Std. III students can add and subtract two and three digit numbers, only 20 percent of them knew how to multiply 3 digit numbers and only 12 percent knew how to multiply and divide simple fractions.

The tests show that students have been improving steadily since the tests started three years ago, but not fast enough to be called good.

All the schools showed poor results with simple decimals and fractions but steady progress in reading and comprehension.

These tests were given to 2,364 boys and girls nationwide of Infant I, 2,310 of Infant II, 2,050 of Std. I and 2,506 students of St. III.

The examiners concluded after viewing these results for Math and Reading that more classroom hours may be needed than is recommended and more individual help must be given to students.

The Reporter