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LALIT’s Contribution to CPE Review Forum – December 2011


LALIT's members, Alain Ah-Vee, Lindsey Collen and Rada Kistnasamy, attended today, Monday 19 December the National Consultative Forum for Reviewing the CPE. Lindsey Collen intervened from the floor to explain our proposals for a more equal Education System where the Mother-tongue is used as medium of instruction. Other participants who intervened after supported our demands.
We are pleased to publish, LALIT's proposals which were submitted to the Minister of Education and also distributed at the Forum.

Measure 1: Quota by primary school for college place; quota by college for university scholarships

1. LALIT, like many other organizations and individuals in Mauritius, would like to see the end of the cut-throat competition of the CPE examination that puts enormous stress on 11 to12-year-olds. In any case, what is being tested during examinations is known to be questionable. So, how do we proceed if we want to reduce competition, create conditions to move towards more continuous assessment, and also produce “nivellement par le haut” nation-wide? This is what our paper is on. As long as there are “good” colleges and “less good” colleges, at least in the perception of teachers and parents, it is very difficult to organize selection fairly for places in these colleges. This is why the CPE has persisted. But, is there a way out of this heavy historical legacy? Is there a road-map towards fairness? Is there a road-map which, at the same time, brings about “nivellement par le haut?” And, as long as there is not equality in the level of teaching in primary schools, there will be a scramble to the primary schools that produce the best results, so that the children get a better chance of getting places in the “good” colleges, so that they can get a better chance of a state scholarship. How can an end be put to this as well, and how can this, too, be done by “nivellement par le haut”?

There is a way. And it is the role of political parties to militate for ways to get things done, in practice. Too often people just express “voeux pieux” instead of proposing mechanisms for dynamising the system. LALIT’s proposals dynamise education, relying on the best instincts in parents and teachers.

We propose that, in order to reduce competition, to regionalize education without resorting to repression, to raise standards in all primary schools to the highest level, and to prepare for the subsequent phasing out of the CPE examination altogether, the following measures be introduced, while at the same time giving parents and teachers a couple of years’ warning:

i. Continue in an interim period with a national-level CPE examination paper, but stop national ranking altogether immediately. Children will be ranked in the interim period, but not nationally. They will only be ranked by school. At each primary school, the first 2-10 children can be ranked, and their parents get the first choices of College in their Zone (essentially a quota system) while simultaneously,
ii. All HSC colleges are allotted an equal share of University Scholarships, through a sophisticated method of allocation by highest marks in different domains. [Note that the quota system is already in place for boys/girls, for Rodrigues, for science/commerce/arts scholarships, for the best boy and girl from each school to the nearby SSS, so it is tried and tested already.]

The effect of this interim double-measure will be for parents to stop rushing to a few primary schools, as well as stop rushing to a few colleges. Zoning will become voluntary. Parents will be able to get together to monitor the level of competition in the school, and to refuse private lessons, without a fear that parents somewhere else where they can’t see them are forcing their children harder than they are. At the same time, PTA’s will all become more dynamic, as they will all end up with some parents of a higher social status than teachers and principals, and other parents of a lower status than teachers and principals. This is essentially what will make the schools “perform” well.

The situation will then, once there has been “nivellement par le haut”, make it possible to phase out examinations for children this age, because all primary schools will have become high standard. All children in the country will benefit.

Measure 2: Mother-tongue based multi-lingual education
2. LALIT’s second proposal is for mother-tongue based multi-lingual education. With the introduction of Mauritian Kreol as a subject, children will be advantaged if their parents opt for the mother tongue.

However, the real cognitive leap is when children learn through their mother tongue, through the language of break-time, through the language of the street, of the hospital, of the post office, of the shops. The studies all over the world, particularly those of Prof. Jim Cummins, show that high level intellectual development and high level literacy in many languages is best attained through mother-tongue medium, and this to a high level. What happens when children learn in a second language is that they rely on rote-learning, and do not manage to develop Cognitive-Academic Language Proficiency (CALP), but only Basic Inter-Personal Communication Skills (BICS). In other words the children seem to be able to speak French and English well, but only at the level of BICS – because it is not their natural language.

These two measures will improve education by:
- assuring universal literacy and numeracy in primary schools,
- assuring equality (at a high level) in primary and secondary schools,
- assuring social justice for different regions,
- avoid the need for repression in order to nurture regionalization and high standards,
- assuring higher levels of cognition, creativity, inventiveness, rationality, through use of the mother-tongue and decrease in the emphasis on rote-learning.
- avoid stigmatization in some schools.
- avoid the traumatism of the repression of the mother tongues.
- dynamize all PTA’s.
- assuring that examinations at this age can be phased out altogether.