What If We Give Primary School Head Teachers The Tools To Improve Student Performance

What If We Give Primary School Head Teachers The Tools To Improve Student Performance

Sophia Primary students setting up their tablets

Georgetown, Guyana; May 15, 2018 – Every year we celebrate the performance of maybe 1500 students who earn top scores on the grade 6 assessment.  The vast majority of parents of these students invest heavily in, before or after school lessons, to improve their chances for placement at the top schools in the country.

But what about the remaining 12000 or more students? the vast majority with parents who simply could not afford the best quality primary schools or supplemental lessons, what happens to these students as they advance and have to build upon, often missing critical foundations in Maths and English.  Do they every catch up?

A State Of Emergency?
To really understand the enormity of the problem, we have to go back to the early 2nd grade assessment.  The overall percent of Guyanese grade 2 students who achieve ‘approaching standard’ or ‘attained standard’ in numeracy is 56%.  So what are the prospects for grades 3, 4, 5, and 6 and beyond.  The truth is unbearable, the numbers don’t actually improve.  Guyana’s CXC pass rate for Maths is 20%, the lowest in the Caribbean and that is after losing nearly 40% of the student class that began high school.

World bank report – Monitoring Educational Performance in the Caribbean

Earlier this year, STEMGuyana’s research team had the opportunity to work with two head teachers in Guyana under a President Granger’s sponsored initiative to understand how the NGSA mobile app affected the performance of students who would not normally be able to afford lessons.

Sadly, because of several delays, the young students from Lusignan Primary, Sophia Primary and Bosco Boys Orphanage were only able to work with the app for about three weeks before the assessment but our research team was able to learn quite a bit based on student use of the app during that brief period.

Student from Bosco School receiving tablet to enable work on NGSA research project

The first thing that stood out was that both head teachers were enthusiastic and quite open to working with the new technology.  They immediately understood its benefits, they were responsive and they organized their students to work on the plan.  Leadership, after all is critical when new programs are being proposed, implemented and tested.  Both of these HM’s rose to the challenge and continued to encourage and support both of their teachers and students.  The stakeholder response was overall positive.

Goal 1 – Placement Success
STEMGuyana is confident that those three weeks of extra study on the NGSA app will pay off.  While we note that the Lusignan, Bosco and Sophia students will be competing for top places with students who have been taking lessons for more than a year, we are confident that we will still see overall improved student performance in students working with the NGSA mobile app.

Students from Paradise Primary learning how to use tablet

Goal 2 – Data Analysis And School Improvement Plans
One of the astounding outcomes of the NGSA app use was the ability to aggregate app test results by school, by subject [Math, English, Social Studies, Science] and by subject category.  For example, we sent HM Sue of Sophia, a report showing the % pass rate for her students who worked on the app in the Maths subcategory of Numbers and number theory, Sets, Ratios, Percentages, etc.

HM Sue will now be able to focus on reinforcing lesson plans in the areas where her students scored below a target average.  The revolutionary part of this process is that this report is immediately available to every primary school HM whose students complete practice assessments on the mobile app.  Students can also be grouped into table teams based on the help they need, therefore customized teaching becomes immediately possible.

Students from Sophia Primary working on the NGSA app

Using Technology To Immediately Solve Student Performance Issues
As a practical matter, there is no reason for delay, tools are now available to empower head teachers to take action to immediately improve student performance.  Head teachers can get their students to take assessments in computer labs,  on their phones or in community center hubs.  Data charges for the NGSA app are waived on the GTT network therefore interior schools without internet can take the assessment on their phones since there is a greater than 90% phone penetration rate in Guyana.  An option for fully loaded tablets can also be made available to schools without phones or internet.