The additional school year that was implemented in all public secondary schools in the BVI for the last three years will no longer be mandatory.
Announcing the change in the House of Assembly on February 20, Education Minister Dr Natalio Wheatley said, starting September 2020, Grade 10 students who satisfy a ‘strong academic criteria’ will now have the option of completing their senior years of high school in two years as opposed to the previous mandatory three.
“Once obtaining a grade of B+ and above, students can choose an accelerated track, which would still require them to complete the same graduation requirements, including credit requirements, examination passes, and community service hours in two years instead of three,” Dr Wheatley stated.
“In exceptional circumstances, students can qualify based on the recommendation of the principal of the institution. Those who fall below the required GPA (Grade Point Average) will finish in the three years that is presently required based on the present graduation requirements. This initiative will be reviewed in July 2021,” he added.
Thorough research conducted
Dr Wheatley said that thorough research and studies between schools in the territory coupled with feedback from public meetings held with various stakeholders were conducted before developing this new solution.
He said: “I commissioned the H Lavity Stoutt’s Planning Department to compare the performance of HLSCC students from the public secondary schools with the additional year with HLSCC students from private schools without the additional year. They also were to compare the performance of students before and after the introduction of the additional year.”
Additional year not linked to improved grades
The Education Minister said the empirical data after being analysed revealed that there was no link between the additional year of school and improved performances at the H Lavity Stoutt Community College – which was the first institution to house additional year students in 2017.
“The results of the study are enlightening. Firstly, St George’s [Secondary School] (which is a private institution) had a higher success rate, which is the percentage of students with a C or better, than Elmore Stoutt and Bregado Flax in 2017, and Seventh-day Adventist had a higher success rate than Elmore Stoutt and Bregado Flax in 2018. Both Bregado Flax and Elmore Stoutt had higher success rates in 2013 than in 2017 and 2018,” Dr Wheatley explained.
“In fact, in some instances, the private schools, which did not implement an additional year, had a greater percentage of A’s and B’s on the college level or had results which were similar to that of their peers from public secondary schools. This is also reflected in the CSEC (Caribbean Secondary Schools Examination Council) results,” he added.
Proposal was well-received during 2019 meetings
According to Dr Wheatley, his proposal on the additional year was well-received by stakeholders during community meetings which were held in June 2019.
Teachers and parents who attended the meeting were mostly in agreement with the notion that students who excel at a much faster rate should not be forced to do three senior years.
The majority also felt that the additional year should still remain in place as an option for students who develop at a slower rate than normal, that may need it.
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