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SEA of Woe
Last week, Trinidad & Tobago’s children sat the Secondary Entrance Assessment examination, formerly the 11-Plus, which determines for sure the school they enter for the next five years and, probably, the standard of living for the rest of their lives.
In sympathy with people whose futures may have been decided at an age at which they might still have more faith in Santa Claus than their prime minister (mind you, a lot of grown-up Trinis since Independence might, too), I begin my own 51-Plus exam today, doing as much as I can figure out of the maths section.
Next Friday, I’ll try “language arts” and finish with the essay the following Friday. These questions come from a Guardian SEA practice test. I’m as dissatisfied with the new focus of the maths as parents were last week; the increase in pictorial questions, probably to ease up children who can’t read, makes my own job harder: how do I write spoof answers when examiners themselves ask spoof questions?
Mathematics. 75 minutes.
Q1. What is the value of N? Since when did “N” replace “X” or “Y” to represent unknowns in maths, and does it have anything to do with African-American-Trinidadian pride and the N-word? Just asking or, rather, axing. Q8. Write a fraction with the same value as 4/5 with a denominator of 15? How can a fraction of 4/5 have a denominator of 15; don’t these examiners examine their own firetrucking questions? Write 4.5/15 and see if that doesn’t confuse them into giving us a half-mark.
Q10. If one litre of water =1,000 cm cube, how many litres will fill a container with a 25,000 cm cube volume? I’m not sure, but I think the answer is either “Daryan Warner,” “President Carmona” or “Rubik.”
Q15. Calculate the sum of the numbers 1357, 267 and 14,685. Another question designed to weed out the stupid children, who will get stuck on “calculate the sum” and lose precious minutes of exam time wondering if what they have to do is not already a sum, and why they have to calculate it instead of just adding it up, and, too besides, them doesn’t allow no calculator in the exam room.
Q 20. A class left school for a field trip at 9.20am and returned two hours and ten minutes later. What time did they return? If “field trip” has the regular Trinidad meaning, they came back as soon as they left because the playing field is on school grounds; assuming, though, as our Ministry of Education seems to, that “field trip” has the same meaning as in a Hollywood movie, the Trinidadian’s primary source of higher learning, there is no way any school anywhere in Trinidad could go anywhere else on any field trip at all, and get back to school in two hours; unless they went when schools were on vacation and traffic was lessened.
Q 22. 25 per cent of Johnathon’s allowance is $175. How much is 75 per cent of his allowance? Whatever the answer is, Jonathan should learn to spell his own firetrucking name right. Q25. Add 16 km 389m + 7km 880m. A trick question; you cannot add kilometres and miles. Q 30. Value Added Tax is calculated at 15 per cent. Calculate the VAT on at item costing $660? Firetruck that; even in primary school every Trini knows you doesn’t axe for a receipt and then you doesn’t have to work out VAT on nothing.
Q 31. In 2008, Jerry was 24. In 2012, Jerry will be twice the age of his sister Ann. How old was Ann in 2012 and 2008? Sounds like Ann is Jerry’s older father’s new child from a second relationship after he left Jerry’s mother, so Ann’s age doesn’t matter; Jerry’s real problem is his father will leave all the money to Ann, and Jerry will have to mind the old queen on his one.
Q 35. A coach arrived in San Fernando at 9am, waited 20 minutes for people to get on, and arrived in Port-of-Spain 1 1/2 hours later; what time was that? Another trick question; even assuming Trinidadian children can figure out the coach in the problem is a bus and not someone involved in training a sports team, and that the bus is waiting for people to board, not get on (as in, “get on bad”), the only way a coach is reaching POS from Sando in 90 minutes is by water taxi.
Q 42. In three cricket matches, Ronnie scores 65 runs, 32 runs and 53 runs. What is Ronnie’s mean score? Higher than the combined scores of Bangladesh and Zimbabwe in West Indies’ supposedly magnificent back-to-back five Test victories over them. Q 46. At a primary school, there are 32 students in standard one, 36 in standard two, 30 in standard three, 32 in standard four and 35 in standard five. The school has 40 desks. Each desk seats two students. How many more similar desks are needed so all students will have a seat? Whew! SEA students should pass “language arts” just for reading that whole question! Even in the table form, which I had to render as only written text here, it was ridiculously long; but I suppose this is to show that the exam itself is more relevant to the world in which the children live, where questions are long, long, long and there are either no answers at all or only wrong ones. The only thing the parents can do is to convert to Catholicism, join Opus Dei, and home-school the children.
That’s enough Maths. Next week, we tackle the language arts with no finesse.
BC Pires is not a door when he’s a jar. Read more of his writing at www.BCraw.com
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