All-male Kingston high school Calabar is reporting improved mathematics passes among its students arising from an initiative spearheaded by the alumni. Called ‘Building a Mathematics Culture at Calabar’, the programme, launched in 2013, has seen an almost doubling of passes in Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) maths and has resulted in improved scores on internal tests.
"In 2013, the CSEC maths passes were 44 per cent. In 2014, it moved to about 62 per cent and in 2015, the maths passes for Calabar at CSEC was over 80 per cent," immediate past president of the Calabar Old Boys’ Association (COBA), Kevin Whyte, explained
The programme targets mostly first to third form students who attend free Saturday classes conducted by past students.
Themes explored during the school week are reinforced with fresh perspective and innovative approaches, according to COBA.
A downloadable math application is used to supplement teaching where necessary, and incentives – such as a scholarship of $50,000 to a grade eight student who maintains an 80 per cent average in the subject area — are provided to keep students motivated and to encourage them to continue to learn.
Whyte said that a math wall has been painted at the school to remind students and teachers about the importance of the subject
"We painted a wall yellow and we wrote on it: 'Mathematics is our way of life'," he said.
"It was done from a philosophical perspective so the boys reading it would internalize it as mathematics being a part of them. We also wrote on the wall the names of famous mathematicians and the years they lived. This is a part of our focus to have maths being in the faces of all the boys of Calabar," he adds.
Meanwhile, Calabar Principal Albert Corcho has hailed the efforts of the COBA, which has also organised workshops for teachers
"I am here three years now and the programme started then. It started at 43 per cent and has moved up to 80.5 per cent. The old boys’ initiative is at the root. They are actively involved. It is impacting them (students) right across the board for maths," he tells JIS News.
The intervention at Calabar High is in keeping with measures being undertaken by the Ministry of Education to improve student achievement in mathematics.
Over the last three to five years, the ministry has been investing increased time, effort, and monetary and human resources to address some of the deficits in the system, with specific emphasis on improving the capacity of primary and secondary level teachers, as well as on the teacher education programme. The cadre of mathematics coaches supporting the system has also been increased.
In 2014, 86 secondary schools were supported by full-time coaches and part-time mathematics resource teachers.
The Education Ministry, which will observe Mathematics Week March 6-11, says mathematics plays a significant role in opening doors for people to access jobs, as data suggests that those who achieve higher levels of mathematical competencies are likely to earn up to 40 per cent more than those who are not competent in the subject area.