Education Ministry responds to Office of the Leader of the Opposition’s statements

The Ministry of Education categorically and vehemently denies the careless and spurious statement issued by the Office of the Leader of the Opposition which attempts to bring the administration of the 2021 National Grade Six Assessment into disrepute.

The mischievous statement alleges that the Minister of Education and or persons acting on her behalf breached the examination protocols in several instances.  It is clear that Mr. Harmon is either unaware of the processes associated with the administration of this national examination or intends to mislead and deceive the Guyanese populace with baseless accusations.

The facts are: The visit of Minister Manickchand to the marking center was done in a fully transparent manner and with the clear intention to show support and appreciation for the Markers who were willing to work during the pandemic (many refused to do so) and to encourage the Markers to be extra vigilant during the marking because of the excessive errors alleged to have been made during the 2020 marking exercise. To assign an ulterior motive for routine work by Minister Manickchand, who visited many times in her previous iteration as did APNU/AFC’s first Minister of Education Dr. Rupert Roopnarine is pure political mischief; such visits are routine for subject Ministers

Former Minister of Education Rupert Roopnaraine visiting an NGSA marking centre in 2016

As of 2016, the NGSA has been administered by the Caribbean Examinations Council. The premier regional examination body whose examinations most Guyanese have written to start their careers and further studies locally and internationally. To bring this reputable examination body into disrepute of being unable to run an examination without interference is a slap in the face of this entity, CARICOM, and hard-working Guyanese. It also brings into question the foundation of many people’s lives.

Each examination question paper, grouped by subject for each school, comes pre-packed and sealed from Barbados. It is then opened by the supervisor of each center in the presence of invigilators and students at the time of the respective exams. Each package for each subject is sealed separately with exam papers amounting to the number of students registered to sit the exam along with an additional amount rounded up to the closest five which caters to walk-in candidates which usually happens from time to time. This is no secret to anyone familiar with these examinations. The Ministry of Education is NOT in receipt of a single report of anyone accessing the exam papers to date. The examination papers cannot be viewed before the examination date. It is practically impossible for any person to take a photograph of the examination paper before the commencement of the examination.

Secondly, the statement says that examination papers in Region Nine were sent off without the Education Officer or appropriate officer being present. The system used to transport and distribute examination papers to and within the region mirrored exactly what took place over the last six years. Therefore, this allegation like all the others is baseless.

With this heightened interest by some divisive elements, the Office of the Leader of the Opposition should say to Guyanese why is it that in previous years under the last administration that some national secondary schools were awarded a total of 10 to 20 students less than they can accommodate and why students who did not attain those top schools ended up on benches therein and why all of them happened to be related to friends of the APNU/AFC.

Mr. Harmon should say why is it that candidates who were 12 years and 7 months had their raw scores reduced simply because of their age even after the matter was brought to their attention. Thirdly, answers should be given as to why after reviews were submitted for previous NGSA examinations in the last fives years that 30% to 40% of students’ grades had to be changed in favor of the student and when an understandably concerned CXC asked and indicated that they would like to or should be a part of that review process this was denied.  Why is that? 

Lastly, Harmon should say why APNU/AFC \’s Henry instructed that scripts of NGSA exams be burned almost immediately upon marking thereby breaching all established international examination protocols.

The CXC mechanism does not allow for any form of irregularity, and we reject all attempts to besmirch the image of the Ministry of Education and the CXC as well as those markers who have made the sacrifice despite the pandemic to mark our candidates’ papers. Mr. Harmon attempts to indict, not the Minister of Education, but the officers of the Ministry of Education. These accusations suggest implicitly that the officers of the Ministry of Education allowed these ‘so-called’ malpractices to happen. It suggests that we were aware of these transgressions and allowed them. We refute these allegations and must express grave disappointment in the carelessness with which these allegations are made. In Harmon’s haste to embroil this examination in a political scandal, Harmon has made statements that have far-reaching consequences such as affecting the morale of students and their expectations of the results of the examination and the education system. Harmon has no care that his expedient use of baseless allegations could result in a vitiation of the entire exam affecting 14, 300 children and 28,600 parents, 56,000 grandparents, numerous siblings, teachers, and the country at large. Mr. Harmon is urged to be more responsible in his utterings and to fully inform himself before mounting the soapbox afforded him as Leader of the Opposition.