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Challenging the education system
A revamped primary school curriculum will be rolled out in time for the start of the next school year—September 2013. It will commence in Infants 1, Infants 2 and Standard 1. The curriculum is being 100 per cent written by a local writing team.
Acting chief education officer at the Ministry of Education (MOE) Harrilal Seecharan disclosed this in response to claims by local educator Dr David Subran that T&T’s three universities should be shut down since the Ministry of Education contravened best practices by awarding the primary schools reform project to foreigners. Subran was incensed that the ministry hired a group representing Mt Saint Vincent University, Canada, to lead the work.
Subran had expressed his exasperation in a scathing letter to the editor on January 2. The primary school curriculum revamp is expected to be completed by July and ready for implementation in September. Asked about the revamping, Seecharan said, “There is a perception that foreigners are writing our curriculum, which could not be further from the truth which brings together the technical expertise, teaching experiences and rich contextual and cultural experiences as well as sensitivities of the length and breadth of T&T.
“Everyone involved in the curriculum revision is inspired and highly motivated to complete the task and to complete it excellently. Many view it as the single most important contribution they will make in their professional lives. The impact upon education in T&T will be significant.”
Random checks with tertiary level educators revealed they have embraced the idea of having a global partner since the primary school curriculum was more tailored to students passing SEA than holistic development. It was felt children should be prepared to develop critical thinking skills, learn a foreign language and adapt to a technological era.
Reading specialists involved
Seecharan also made reference to the input of university graduates, such as 87 reading specialists who were trained by the MOE through a Master’s in Reading from UWI. They graduated in 2011 with an aim to support reading and literacy in primary and secondary schools. They have since been assimilated into the school system.
“These people are currently serving in their schools as teachers, supporting reading and literacy as originally intended. In a planned MOE intervention to further support reading and literacy at the primary level, 40 of these have consented to work with this district-based intervention and will soon be contracted to do so,” Seecharan said.
The primary school curriculum, which currently spans as many as 13 separate subjects, was written between 1998 and 2004, Seecharan said. He explained that local educators have realised there is the need to adapt and change, but before attempting to revamp the curriculum, they engaged in a process of dialogue with relevant stakeholders such as education experts. The consensus was to improve the quality of school life for the primary school child, he explained.
Seecharan said, “There are deficiencies which have been identified by the MOE as well as experts and stakeholders in education. The 2011 national and district consultations on primary education identified critical areas to be addressed (see box). The focus of the consultations was on improving the quality of school life for the primary school child. As such, participants in the various fora were asked to give their viewpoints on a range of events experienced by the typical primary school-aged child from age five to post-11 years.”
He noted the consultations elicited public opinion on proposed changes to SEA and national tests, suggestions on curriculum content, and critical programmes for the primary schools aimed at national developmental goals. Despite some calls for reduction of subject content, attendees at the various consultations called for a large and varied number of concepts and skills which were felt would lead to the development of a well-rounded entrant to the secondary school system.
Seecharan added, “Over 15 additional content areas were identified as important for the holistic education of the primary school child. These ranged from agriculture to social values education. The MOE shared plans for revision of the primary curriculum for alternative pedagogical methodologies such as the thematic approach to lesson planning, the integrated arts, the technology education approach which involves critical thinking processes and engagement in real-world problem solving.
These were well received and recommended for serious consideration to engage, excite and bring out the creativity in our young students.”
The primary curriculum writing team comprises 51 teachers from across T&T, largely primary level, as well as personnel of the Curriculum Division. Teachers are graduates with a Bachelor of Education Degree, a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science Degree or a Teacher’s College Diploma with a relevant subject specialisation and experience teaching at the primary level.
Contrary to Subran’s queries about the tendering process, Seecharan said to select this team, a national advertisement, application and interview process was conducted. Applicants were required to be endorsed by their principals as well as their school supervisors.
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