Published On: Wed, Apr 20th, 2022

Pleasing rates

By Hilbert Haar

The court case of a French teacher against the St. Maarten Academy offers a candid insight into the way this school is going about its business. It fired the teacher, who’d been employed since 2004, on such shaky grounds that the court ordered it to reinstate him, or to compensate him with a payment of 84,000 guilders. That’s not the most remarkable issue in play here.

Related article: St. Maarten Academy had to rehire unjustly fired teacher – or pay

What did the teacher do to get himself fired? He was training the school’s French third form for the end of year exam, back in June 2021. The class rumbled on with the help of a smartboard that – wait for it – displayed the questions the students would have to answer during the exam, just a few days later.

When the smartboard malfunctioned, the teacher had a decision to make: wait for the IT-guys to fix the problem of do something else. He chose the second option and allowed a student to take a picture of the questions that were displayed on the smartboard. The student of course, distributed his picture to fellow students through WhatsApp in the spirit of creating a level playing field.

That’s academic fraud, the school argued, only to find out in court that this was no fraud at all: no personal gain for the teacher, no undue advantage for the students and no malice.

The real question, one that was not in play during the dismissal case, is how the Academy prepares its students for an exam.

I remember from my time in high school (okay, that was a very long time ago) that in science class we prepared throughout the year a notebook that contained around eighty questions that could be asked during my exam. The thing is, you could not possibly know which questions they would throw at you so the smart solution was to memorize them all.

At the Academy they present students a few days before an exam with the real exam questions. It’s a bit like providing you with the winning numbers of the lotto, two days before the actual draw.

The question is now: how does this way of doing business affect the value of a student’s performance? I suspect that the Academy is choosing for this solution to make the school and its students look good. Maybe this is good for the school (keeping up appearances) but for the students it is a disaster. They are getting passing grades for something they may or may not understand or master and further down the road, when they want to continue their studies on a higher level, they will surely get into academic trouble.

I would like to hear from our Minister of Education whether guiding students through their exams this way is acceptable. If it is considered normal and all schools are doing the same, God help us all. In that case, passing rates will have to be renamed pleasing rates. And maybe the Academy ought to be taken to court for exam fraud.


Related article: St. Maarten Academy had to rehire unjustly fired teacher – or pay