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Dr Tim: Much more work needed before SEA goes
Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh says the level of performance in both primary and secondary schools has to improve before the “dreadful” Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) exam can be replaced. Gopeesingh first hinted at the possible removal of the exam at the ministry’s SEA 2013 awards ceremony on Saturday.
In a telephone interview on Tuesday, he said, “I indicated there is need for consideration of whether there is an alternative method for placing our students in secondary schools, which will need a lot of national consultation amongst the major stakeholders, including denominational boards, TTUTA (T&T Unified Teachers Association), NPTA (National Parent Teachers Association), NGOs (non-governmental organisations), CBOs (community-based organisations) and the business community.”
He said it would require a multi-pronged and multi-dimensional approach. Asked why he described the SEA as “dreadful,” he said parents were always complaining that the exams put their children under a lot of stress. “Sometimes parents resort to sending their children for extra lessons five to six times a week, though they are filled with academia during the day.” Parents, he said, also stressed their children by putting pressure on them to perform better.
He said that was one reason why the Continuous Assessment Component (CAC) was introduced. “In 2013 we have 20 per cent of the marks go for continuous assessment; in May 2014, 40 per cent go to continuous assessment and 60 per cent for language, arts and mathematics, so that will be one major paradigm shift. “We inherited the British system of education, (but) we are open to broader suggestions,” he added.
The minister could not say what system he had in mind to replace the SEA but his first goal was to improve the standards of education in all schools to ensure that all students perform at a certain level. Already, he said, there had been marked improvement in primary school performance. In addition, he said, the government is moving forward with the universal early childhood education which would ensure a “better intake” into the primary schools, and treating with students who have special educational needs.
He added: “So therefore the level of performance in our secondary schools will undoubtedly improve within the next two to three years certainly.
“We are retraining and training new teachers, filling all vacancies, achieving major school-based management teams together with local school boards, and working feverishly with principals and their teams to continue to improve performances so that eventually all schools can be on an equal status level in terms of performance, and therefore students and parents will not find it difficult to choose what school their children should go to.
“But this process will take some time. It cannot be done within the first term of office, it will require some major interactive discussions on the way forward on this issue.” He said the zoning system used in the United States could not work at the moment because not all schools were performing at an acceptable level.