Georgetown, Guyana — Something magical is happening at Sophia Primary School. In order to understand this magic fully, you need to understand the enthusiasm and determination of Ms Audrey Sue — the institution’s incredible Head Teacher.
When Ms Sue recognized that she did not have enough funds to provide internet access to her students, thereby preventing them from participating in the collaborative study of the effectiveness of the National Grade Six Assessment (NGSA) app, she refused to take no for an answer.
Ms Sue organised multiple fundraisers, where she sold ice cream and the like until she raised enough funds ($26,000) to obtain internet access for her entire school, and her immense passion and energy ripple throughout the building. This is reflected by the quiet determination of particularly the Grade 6 teacher, and the students at that level
Despite only having access to the NGSA app for three weeks, the Sophia students worked diligently enough to earn the highest number of exam practice points of all schools in Region 4!
There is no shortage of determination, grit, and hope at Sophia Primary School. It is crystal clear that every student is eager to learn and take advantage of new opportunities. One wonders what would have happened if these students had been afforded access to NGSA tutoring for months, if not years prior to the exam.
When STEMGuyana collaborated with President David Granger and the Ministry Of Education to study the effectiveness of the NGSA mobile app, Sophia Primary was one of the four schools chosen to receive tablets donated by His Excellency. The purpose of the tablets was to study the effects of providing tech tools and resources that could enable Grade Six students in historically underperforming schools, many of whom could not afford NGSA prep lessons, access to the NGSA’s practice exams mobile app to help them prepare for the 2017 NGSA.
The hypothesis was that children from underprivileged communities, whose parents could not afford assessment preparatory lessons, would most benefit from the NGSA app. Other things being equal, the proof would be improved performance on the 2018 NGSA.
Armed with this mission, STEMGuyana members allocated the donated tablets to four primary schools. STEMGuyana indicated that “very regrettably” it was unable to test initially in three schools, because, as indicated by the Ministry Of Public Telecommunications, those primary schools were not scheduled for internet access during the period of study.
“We did, however, appeal to GT&T and were able to get the support of CEO Justin Nedd. GT&T would not only provide free internet access for those three schools, but for all the primary schools in Guyana. That was a huge win for all involved, particularly the children of less fortunate parents, but sadly only one of the three schools was able to benefit from GT&T’s generosity in time for the 2018 assessment, and it is this school that we chose to highlight,” STEMGuyana explained in a statement.
“When STEMGuyana arrived to install the software and register students, we didn’t envision that the young people in the room would all be actively engaged in preparing the tablets for themselves. We also certainly didn’t expect two girls in the class to be the centre of technical support, dispensing technical advice to the other students and expediting the solutions process, and this was just the beginning.
Once online, STEMGuyana mentors pointed out that Sophia Primary School would earn two points for every correct answer selected by each student there. This set in motion a series of events leading to Sophia Primary taking the lead in the score rankings on the NGSA app. Sophia Primary began leading all primary schools in Region Four and across the country on practice points, displaying tremendous effort, determination, and grit.”
Because of their active participation, Head Teacher Sue is now able to analyse student performance across subjects – Maths, English, Science, and Social Studies – and by subcategory in each subject. Ms Sue is now able to work with Ministry of Education Subject Matter Specialists to implement mini-programs targeted to improving instruction in specific categories in each subject area.
STEMGuyana says it expects Sophia Primary’s current Grade Five students to benefit from the research and improvement plans, and to “perform creditably in the 2019 NGSA”.
“After only three weeks of exam practice, Sophia students’ NGSA preparation was still not comparable to the months and years of preparation afforded more privileged students, but it is clear from their app rankings that they exceed in desire and effort, two areas that are critical for success in life.
Most of Sophia Primary School students will move onto secondary school better prepared, regardless of which school they attend. Sophia Primary School students have proven that not only students in more privileged schools have desire and determination. They have proven that given access to opportunity, resources, and expectations of excellence, Guyana’s youth will take advantage, and will impress us all,” STEMGuyana concluded.