The BGCSE illusion

First Published: 2012-08-29

In the Tribune of August 28, 2012 Dr. Ruthmae Sears of the University of South Florida stated unequivocally in her Letter to the Editor that the BGCSE annual “national average” is “merely an illusion…a poorly defined construct.”

She supports her thesis with a long discussion of how an arithmetic average is calculated in the real world. She did this…apparently…without knowing much about just how the BGCSE exam is structured.

It appears that she has never examined the Testing & Evaluation Section’s “Grade Descriptor Manual” nor a “Syllabus” for a specific subject.

However, she concludes that the A, B, C, D, E, F, G and U grade levels ought to be “better explained” and “a rubric for the letter grades ought to be provided”. This is a valid observation.

Let’s look at some specifics…like the BGCSE standards for mathematics.

  • For an “A” grade the candidate should be able to “relate a percentage to a multiplying factor and vice versa” and to “manipulate algebraic equations – linear, simultaneous and quadratic”.
  • For a “C” grade the candidate should be able to “solve simple simultaneous equations in two unknowns”.
  • For a “G” grade the candidate should be able to “Continue a straightforward number sequence” and “recognize and name simple plane figures and common solid shapes.”
  • For a “U” grade the candidate exhibits no substantive knowledge.

Writing an exam that tests to such standards and grading it are extremely difficult tasks. And reporting those results in a meaningful way to Parliament is a true challenge for a Minister of Education.

But is the BGCSE exam “merely an illusion” or a “silly thing”? NO…it is not.

One has to look at a number of things –

  • The BGCSE exam has been a rough and imperfect measure of academic achievement that has consistently reported “dismal” scores.
  • At the same time the Public School system has produced similar dismal results as measured in the number school leavers who do not earn a diploma on leaving school or who have already dropped out…and…
  • Private industry employers have interviewed those school leavers and report similar results. For years they have sought a meaningful audience with Government and an upgrade in the quality of Bahamian labour.

The bottom line is that the status quo is unacceptable; and the Department of Education has not yet presented and pursued an effective remedial program.

Unfortunately…the BGCSE test results are not an illusion.

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