Quiz mistress of the “Know Your Stuff” television programme Dr Joyce Jonas said the initiative was aimed at playing a key role in assisting participating students to prepare for the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examinations in literature.
During an interview with Guyana Times on Friday, Dr Jonas said the programme was designed to help students in literature, because of her love for the subject. The former chief examiner of English Literature at CSEC noted that she had noticed poor performances in the subject area and decided on an initiative to eliminate this.
“It’s obvious that while we had some good students coming from Guyana, we also had a lot of really poorly prepared students,” she noted. “Since literature is something that I’m passionate about, I really feel that learning literature is a wonderful experience for children. I was thinking how something could be done to maybe improve how literature is presented to children, particularly those preparing for CSEC.”
She noted that as students prepare for the quiz programme, it would help them to prepare for the CSEC exams.
The initiative has been met with great enthusiasm from both students and teachers. The quiz mistress said: “They’ve been very keen to get into the text and to probe for the details… and they’re challenging each other to come up with possible questions and that means that they’re ransacking those texts for the details and that, in fact, is what they need to do, to do well in the exam.”
More than 1000 questions were prepared by Dr Jonas herself for the quiz. “I’m afraid it’s just me alone… it’s a lot of work and, of course, sometimes the children would come up with an answer that you weren’t anticipating, but that’s the way literature is and you have to think quickly on the spot, is that an acceptable answer? And very often it is and that’s nice,” she noted.
Literature, she said, has to go hand in hand with the English Language subject. “Literature provides you with a model of really good writing and if you just have children learning grammatical examples and sample sentences from a text book, those are not going to be very inspiring (or) imaginatively written… I think the children need to have their imagination developed as well as their language skills”.
Eight schools from Georgetown and eight from out of town were selected to be part of the programme. “Clearly, you want to choose schools where the children are going to do well, because you want to present to the public children who are able to answer the questions and answer them fairly fluently.”
It was noted, however, that if participating schools did not maintain their competitive edge, they would be replaced by other schools that have been obtaining good grades in the subject.
‘Know Your Stuff’ is a collaborative effort with Guyenterprise, the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph (GT&T), and the Education Ministry.
Guyenterprise Managing Director Vic Insanally said the company jumped at the idea of the programme, because it presents something of substance to the public. Insanally said: “The agency has been changing its whole approach and vision, moving away from simply placing an ad on a day-to-day basis and looking for things that had meaning and… really things with legacy.”
“We’ve always been on the lookout for programmes that educate… this is what we found in Dr Jonas’ suggestion.”
Speaking about his vision for the programme in the near future, he stated that “as part of the residue, the legacy that comes out of this, we might be able to produce a book based on this first set of programmes. We’re hoping too that we can expand into other subject matters”.
The first leg of the programme got underway last year and was specially formulated to improve literature in schools and encourage fun learning.
Participating schools are supplied with background information before the quiz show, which would help with their research.