BELIZE CITY, Wed. June 7, 2017–Curt Smith, a towering youth, 5 feet 11 inches tall and only 12 years old, attained top honors in this year’s Primary School Examination (PSE), having earned a cumulative 387 points out of a possible 400 (or 96.75%) for four subject areas: English, Math, Science and Social Studies.
Smith, a student of Bernice Yorke Institute of Learning in Belize City, ranked first among 7,077 candidates who sat the PSE this year.
“I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the results. In Math, I got 100%. For Social Studies and Science I got 96 and for Language I got 95,” said Smith, who got wind of the good news yesterday.
8 of the 30 top spots went to the Belize City-based school
His teacher and principal, Sherry Ali, said that they found out yesterday morning via social media, and a few hours later, the official school results were in. Fifteen of the seventeen students who sat the exam from the school attained an ‘A’ as their overall grade; eight of those fifteen students are among the 30 students who this year are being recognized as top performers.
Like virtually all the other top performers at the school, Smith found Math and Science to be the easiest subjects, but he admitted that he found the Social Studies paper to be a challenge.
He told us about the preparation he needed to do to achieve success, and critical to his stellar performance, he said, was paying attention in school and staying focused and disciplined.
“All I had to do was listen in class, pay attention, stay focused, and ensure I remember everything teacher says [or] put it on post-it notes,” said Smith.
Ali said that last September, the school began introducing technology in the classroom with the use of tablets for teaching and testing.
“They employed technology in the classroom, the slide shows… teacher made slideshows and sent them to us to help us review. Games from the tablet, Quizlet and Kahoot, helped me to learn more efficiently,” said Smith.
His parents, Zenaida Smith, a domestic, and Lloyd Smith, employed in the private sector, supported him.
Smith, the only child in his household, told us that he does not have to spend as much time studying, since he pays attention in class and assimilates what is taught in the classroom. That leaves him with time to spend on his hobbies, such as music. Smith is a member of the national youth orchestra and he takes violin classes at Pallotti High School.
Smith, an aspiring pilot, said that he intends to continue on the path of excellence and looking ahead, he plans to also attain success at the high school and university levels.
His words of inspiration to other students who sat the PSE are to not give up: “You tried your best; you can’t go higher than your best but you can do better in the future.”
Ali said that for the past few years, at least half of the graduating class at Bernice Yorke have made it among the top PSE performers nationally. Whereas at the national level, students who sit the PSE tend to have the most difficulty with the Math paper, Ali said that Math has always been one of Bernice Yorke’s strongest subjects.
“We continue to excel in Math and it’s based on having a strong foundation at a preschool level,” she added.
She also said that Language is important, since it is the subject of teaching and specifically the English language is the subject of testing here in Belize.
“Every other subject hinges on that subject. For them to become successful, early childhood education plays a vital and most important role,” she said, adding that good study habits and good discipline and parental assistance are also key factors.
Although the school is reputed to assign a lot of work to their students, Ali said that students are grateful, especially when they face bigger workloads at the high school level, since they are better able to cope.
“We are actually preparing them to meet the challenges of high school. It helps them to organize themselves. What is the purpose of homework? It not just doing something but actually practicing those concepts that you have learnt, building [knowledge] by practicing core subjects,” said Ali.
There has also been some debate on the usefulness of the PSE. Ali said that the exam tests children’s ability.
“We need to know where our children should be at the end of 8 years of primary school and it needs to be not individual testing but it needs to be a level playing field, where everybody is taking the same exam and they can gauge where they are,” she explained.
Students who progress with higher learning may also be required to take regional and international exams, and Ali said, “We want out students to measure up!”
Amandala also had a chance to speak with the 7 other top performers from the school: Nahjah Perez and Shaheed Perez (no relation), who both ranked 10th, Jalen Arnold and Azaria Guzman, who both ranked 16th and Danielle Granados, Shaniah Pascacio and Warren Wu, who tied at 19th place.
They told us that while Math and Science were their strong areas, Language, and particularly narrative writing, posed a challenge. They all began Bernice Yorke at the preschool level. The students told us that their teachers, and particularly Ms. Ali, and their parents helped them to successfully prepare for the exam.
The boys move on to St. John’s College and all the girls except one (who plans to attend Edward P. Yorke High School) move on to St. Catherine Academy.