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Hold Hand On Sea Changes
My relief over the purported postponement of the implementation of the newly proposed SEA curriculum was shortlived when I learnt that the Minister of Education had decided to proceed headstrong with his plan for its implementation in September.
This, despite all advice to the contrary as evidenced by the comments and recommendations of TTUTA, the numerous letters from educational practitioners and parents in the daily newspapers and the protests staged by teachers and parents in front of the Ministry of Education. It now seems that the on-again/off-again new SEA curriculum is on again in the flip-flop, “vaps” manner that characterises this administration’s modus operandi.
Yet, in the absence of any firm or official statement, educators and parents are confused and still unsure as to the logistics of the implementation of the new SEA programme. In an article in another newspaper on July 27, entitled “Continuous assessment to begin in September,” it was stated that students of Standards Four and Five would be subjected to continuous assessment come September. On a radio broadcast that very day, it was stated that the students of Standard Five would continue the traditional SEA programme while the Standard Four students would commence the new curriculum.
To date, parents, teachers and educators generally are in a state of limbo—given conflicting media reports and no official statement from the Ministry of Education. No one is certain what will actually transpire come September. What a sorry state for teachers, parents and, most of all, students. What a sorry state for education in our country.
The current Standard Five students would certainly gain a reprieve should they be delivered from the agony of this hastily, ill-advised, poorly constructed implementation programme. But alas, the poor Standard Four students are the ones who will be the experimental guinea pigs.
The concept of broadening the base of the primary school curriculum by introducing additional subjects is in itself deserving of merit since it embodies the philosophy of multiple intelligences, espoused by internationally renowned educational psychologist Howard Garner, where every child finds his/her niche so that no child is left behind. The problem is certainly not with this concept but with the minister’s fundamentally flawed implementation plan which will inevitably fail to realise the intended positive outcomes on student learning.
We are looking here at a major transformation in the primary school system and such change, however well intentioned, could only be successful if its implementation is well thought out, well planned and has the support and “buy-in” of all the key stakeholders.
The compression of the agricultural science, VAPA, citizenry, etiquette and creative writing components into the first term makes a mockery of the learning process as well as deprives the language and mathematics components of critical teaching and learning time. In addition, the creative writing exam will now be held in November, which essentially means that teachers will automatically tend to de-emphasise the delivery of the language component in the second term in favour of other components such as music and physical education.
As an educator, I am particularly concerned about the erosion of teaching and learning time for language and mathematics in a country where we still have serious issues with literacy and numeracy. I should like to respectfully advise the honourable doctor that there is no need for such indecent haste.
Radical, invasive surgery with such deep, painful incisions is not the recommended strategy for an institution that demands a more deliberate, gentle and collaborative approach. We must always be mindful that education, at its core, deals with the nurturing of young, impressionable minds. But then... the minister is a doctor, not an educator.
Couldn’t this new SEA programme be introduced as a pilot programme in Standard One with the various modules being introduced incrementally as the learner progresses through the successive levels of primary school, thereby allowing the critical time needed for sustained learning to really take place? This would also allow adequate time for monitoring and assessing the programme to facilitate any tweaking, adjustments and modifications, thereby mitigating the risk of negatively impacting student learning.
I beseech the minister to hold his hand and reconsider his hasty and ill-informed approach and engage in wider and more deliberate dialogue with teachers, parents and major stakeholders in education rather than rush headlong into a radical change that could result in a deleterious impact on the education of the young people of our nation.
North/St Ann’s West
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