Question Time in the National Assembly |13 October 2021
Education minister addresses matters related to his portfolio
The school-based zoning system, performance of students in the Primary 6 exams and training of teachers were among the various topics addressed by education minister, Dr Justin Valentin, during his appearance before the National Assembly yesterday.
The question-time session yesterday started off with a query from Plaisance MNA, Richard Labrosse, in regards to the ministry’s future plans for kindergarteners in relation to the ‘new normal’ brought on by the pandemic.
Minister Valentin replied that his ministry is hoping to make use of the school’s autonomy status to encourage each school to come with a localised and targeted solutions to learning.
“The ministry has already launched a platform related to the teacher management and development policy that provides teachers with the ability to voice, through the school-based teacher forum, and propose solutions,” he explained.
“We are also targeting to raise the standards at the Seychelles Institute for Teacher Education (Site) and review continuous training of teachers, including teachers in crèche so that they can better work with their pupils,” he added.
Zoning system in schools
Minister Valentin further provided an overview of the current school zoning situation in the country following a question by Hon. Sandy Arrisol on behalf of Au Cap MNA, Kelly Samynadin.
The zoning system makes it mandatory for primary and secondary students to attend the schools nearest to their place of residence but makes exemptions for some to attend schools outside of their districts or regions.
The minister explained the zoning system is working well but the Ministry of Education is seeing a large number of requests for exemption from zoning.
At present, there are a total of 622 primary students and 349 students that have been exempted from attending schools in their respective regions.
In particular, schools in the central region attract the greatest number of students looking to be exempted from zoning and these include schools in Mont Fleuri, Bel Eau, Plaisance, English River and La Rosière.
Meanwhile, in the south, Anse Royale primary and secondary schools also cater to a lot of students studying outside of their zone.
Minister Valentin explained that inconveniences that some schools faced in regards to zoning, especially those in the central region, include wrong information from parents or guardians, unjustified reasons for exemptions, classes that are too full, students who are tired due to long journeys to and back from school and students that travel on the bus by themselves.
“Schools in the central regions are full and cannot take in more students outside of their zone. The greatest inconvenience has been parents who take refusals for exemption quite personally and send letters everywhere, or when students are told to move to their zone and parents refuse,” stated the minister.
“The consequence is that the class gets too large for the teacher and standards are not met.”
For this reason, the Ministry of Education’s short-term solutions are not to approve zoning exemption requests in the short-term, find alternative schools for those who meet the criteria for exemption and the revision of the lists of children who are schooling outside of their zone.
But in the longer run, the ministry will have to establish a legal framework for the zoning system and engage stakeholders in a discussion surrounding the subject.
P6 exam results
In regards to the question brought by Hon. Gervais Henrie, MNA for Mont Buxton, Minister Valentin also provided some statistics for the P6 exam results for the last three years – 2018 to 2020.
The aim of the P6 examination is to evaluate the level of learning of each student as they prepare to leave primary for secondary schooling. They are evaluated on six subjects: English, French, Creole, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies.
“For the year 2018, 2019 and 2020, the ministry had set a target that at least 45% students should get a grade C or above in all of these subjects,” stated the minister.
But the students’ performance during these three years did not reach this target.
“During the last three years, the results for languages have dropped aside for Creole. In the 1,300 P6 students who sat for the exams, 43% received a grade C or better in 2018, 34% in 2019 and only 26% last year, in 2020. The average score has also dropped during these three years going from 51% in 2018, 47% in 2019 and 42% in 2020.”
Students underperformed in French with only 39% students scoring C or more in 2018, 29% in 2019 and 42% in 2020. Average scores in French were 53% in 2018, 46% in 2019 and 54% in 2020.
Creole exams saw better results with 58% scoring C or better in 2018, 40% in 2019 and 50% in 2020 while the average scores were 58% in 2018, 51% in 2019 and 57% in 2020.
As for Mathematics, P6 students greatly underperformed with only 24% of students getting a grade C or better in 2018, 25% in 2019 and 15% in 2020. The average scores in mathematics were 43% in 2018, 43% in 2019 and 37% in 2020.
“The Ministry of Education is not satisfied with these results because we cannot meet or maintain the target of at least 45% grade C or above in these main subjects during the last few years. The ministry wished that students would have the appropriate learning capabilities to increase their performances when they move to secondary.”
Minister Valentin’s plans for the education sector, which he brought to the attention of the National Assembly when he was appointed, are working towards improving the results of students in public schools.
There are currently 270 expatriate teachers working in public schools in the country – 17 in primary school, 223 in secondary schools and 30 in professional centres.
Meanwhile there are 87 Seychellois pre-service teachers studying full time at Site to join the profession and 16 students on the ‘Aspiring Teachers’ programme at the School of Advanced Level Studies (Sals).
There are also 201 in-service teachers undertaking advanced diplomas, diplomas, bachelor’s degree, PGCE and masters, either on a part-time basis or full time.
These were some of the statistics provided by Minister Valentin while answering questions in regards to teacher development in the country, a question brought forward by Hon. Egbert Aglae.
“The ministry’s target is to have a teacher with at least one diploma, in each class. In the next ten years, we want to see Seychellois teachers with degrees in the subject they are teaching on a secondary level. I recognise that the Minister for Education cannot achieve this target by itself. It will have to be a collaborative effort and a national effort,” stated Minister Valentin.