Fresh evidence presented to the Integrity Commission has prompted it to reopen an investigation into People’s National Movement Chief Whip Marlene McDonald.
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$245m spent on textbooks over three years
Government has spent approximately $245 million between 2010 and 2013 to provide textbooks for students at primary, secondary and special-education schools, Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh said yesterday. Replying to an Opposition question in the Senate, Gopeesingh said prior to the actual expenditure, Cabinet had approved $247 million to buy textbooks between 2010 and 2013. He also said Government provided a total of 2,249,987 textbooks for students over the 2010 to 2013 period.
Giving figures for the various periods, Gopeesingh said the purchase of textbooks for primary and secondary schools totalled $17.8 million in 2010. In 2011 it rose to $35.6 million with the inclusion of texts for special-education institutes. In 2012, he said another increase was due to requests from principals and teachers for unused books to be replaced with books that were in keeping with school subjects. The total cost for textbook purchase in 2012 was $84.8 million and the 2013 total cost was $70.2 million.
Gopeesingh said so far for 2010, estimated costs for textbooks were $28.2 million (primary books), $10.3 million (secondary) and $2.8 million (special education). He said the total for the 2010-2013 span included a ten per cent “top-up” estimate catering for books which were damaged, destroyed or pilfered. Gopeesingh said for each subject in primary schools, one textbook is given to each student. For the eight subjects in secondary schools, one textbook is provided to each student also.
For forms four and five, where there were 34 subjects, textbooks are provided according to what students study. At CAPE level, one textbook per subject is also provided. Special-needs students are allocated materials as well as textbooks. Gopeesingh said Government tried to ensure students got the books and if for some reason they didn’t, it was brought to the ministry’s attention and remedied.
He said he wasn’t sure Government was purchasing for the 76 private schools, but had given them materials for exam purposes and was working with 18 private secondary schools too. “We’re trying to ensure no student is left behind and will take all measures to ensure among T&T’s quarter-million students, no one gets an advantage over others or no one is disadvantaged,” he said. Gopeesingh said over the 2010 to 2013 period, approximately 17,600 candidates wrote the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) annually.
He said an average of 2.3 per cent of the students who wrote the SEA were 13 and under after March 31 of the particular year, and whose average composite scores were 30 per cent and less, were allowed to repeat Standard Five and SEA.
Gopeesingh added, “We have noticed from 2010 to 2013, we had about 123 primary schools underachieving and we moved, 100 of them have moved to achieving now, and among those that were achieving, 100 are now excelling. We’ve had an improvement in the language arts (ten per cent) and creative writing (12 per cent),” he said. “We also witnessed a dramatic lessening of students getting less than 30 per cent, from 14 to six per cent now, and an increase in those getting more than 50 per cent.”