Thursday 24 January, 2019

Skeffery ‘peppers’ Reid on controversial mock exam results

Senator Ruel Reid

Senator Ruel Reid

Opposition Senator Wentworth Skeffery on Friday blasted Education Minister, Senator Ruel Reid and, by extension, the Government, for seemingly misleading the nation about the results of the June mock examination for the Primary Exit Profile (PEP), based on how results were presented by the minister.

Skeffery used his contribution to the State of the Nation debate in the Senate titled, ‘Education, that critical transformational tool’, to sharply criticise Reid over his handling of the matter.

It has emerged that when Reid announced the results of the exam at a media conference in October, he had combined the number of students who achieved mastery in each subject area with those who had achieved near mastery in the same subject area. This served to bump up the pass rate, thus painting a much better picture of the overall exam results. The overall percentage number of students achieving mastery in all subject areas is reportedly extremely low.

In his opening statement, Skeffery referred to what he called the “confusion and chaos” surrounding the results of the mock exam. According to the Opposition Senator, it is an indication that the Government is "suffering from an implementation deficit".

Skeffery charged that the Government also lacks critical thinking.

A clearly peeved Reid, who was acting as Leader of Government Business in the Senate on Friday, interrupted Skeffery on several occasions, even calling him a liar before being forced to withdraw the statement.

Undeterred, Skeffery told the Senate that Reid owed the nation an apology.

“And he should then, after giving it, offer his resignation to the ... prime minister,” recommended Skeffery.

According to him, “the way in which he (Reid) communicated the results of the PEP to the nation is perceived by many as an attempt by the Ministry of Education and the minister, to deceive the students, parents, teachers and the general public…”

Skeffery questioned why the minister did not present the results separately in the three distinct categories – mastery, near mastery and non-mastery - to remove any doubt as to his intentions.

Skeffery also noted that some persons had suggested that the minister in fact misled the nation.

“How can we merge near mastery and mastery and then call it satisfactory,” he asked repeatedly, despite Reid rising on a point of order on several occasions.

In his defence, a protesting Reid insisted that the terminologies that he had used (at his media conference) were ‘standard met, standard nearly met and standard not met’.

But Skeffery would have none of it.

“Why didn’t the minister present the results separately, based on three distinct categories, that is, mastery, near mastery and non-mastery, so as to remove any doubt as to his intention?” he again asked.

“How can you merge near mastery with mastery and then call it satisfactory?” he continued.

At that point Reid again rose on a point of order.

“He is misleading the nation because all former ministers, in giving the results, do not break out those categories. Minister Thwaites don’t break out the categories. Don’t come here…,” Reid declared.

But Skeffery would not back down. He told Reid that his approach “makes no logical sense” in communicating the results of the mock exam to parents.

“It is like a teacher telling his students that they almost passed the Math end-of-term exam, and everything is good. Madness, Mr President,” declared Skeffery.

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