WE APPLAUD the Lakshmi Girls Hindu College for securing, for the fifth year in a row, a President’s Medal and on also receiving the highest number of scholarships in the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE). Celine Roodal is to be congratulated on her achievement as should Naparima Girls High School student Sharvaani Rampersad-Maharaj who was awarded the second President’s Medal.
We further congratulate the other top schools based on scholarship tally, including St Augustine Girls High School, Naparima Girls High School, St Joseph’s Convent (Port of Spain) and St Joseph’s Convent (St Joseph). These bright students represent some of the finest we have to offer as a nation, displaying qualities of discipline and commitment that give us hope for the future.
While scholarship tallies are only superficial marks of achievements, they are nonetheless important indicators of performance. Equally important is the feeling of satisfaction teachers get when they produce students who are able to think on their own and engage with ideas and society in a functional, vibrant way.
In this regard, there will always be an aspect of education that has less to do with scholarships and the minutiae of scores and tallies; a side that often escapes the limelight. Still it is notable that the number of scholarships received by government schools this year more than tripled, moving from seven last year to 24 this year. Not to be left out was Tobago, where Bishop’s High School secured two scholarships.
Once again, girls dominated the boys in this year’s CAPE results. This in itself is not surprising given longstanding trends. Nor does pointing it out indicate any suggestion that it is a bad thing for girls to achieve. Rather, the statistics continue to demonstrate the problem of male underachievement, perhaps itself tied to toxic masculinity.
Efforts to address this matter need to be bolstered. The disparity to too substantial to ignore: a total of 285 girls received scholarships as opposed to 115 boys. For many years, the problem has been on the lips of education officials and we are to get to the bottom of the situation with views ranging from the rise of gang culture to a lack of positive male role models.
Whatever the cause, the alignment with gender and performance is a disconcerting phenomenon indicative of an overall failure as a society to come to terms, in a mature way, with gender as a whole. Perhaps the time has come for partnership between education stakeholders, government agencies tasked with gender analysis, and non-governmental organisations?
This year, the Ministry of Education has adjusted grade profiles because the process for scholarships remains competitive. The new process is likely to trigger some requests for reviews which, if they arise, need to be handled as expeditiously as possible so as to not cast any aspersions on the genuine achievements of all the students involved.