Last update: 12-Dec-2013 4:50 am
Thursday, December 12, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Why is ratio not being taught?
The controversy over question 35 in this year’s SEA examination raises serious questions about the primary school curriculum, the quality of decisions taken in our education system, political interference and the teaching methods being employed in our schools. In the first case, many of us are aware that ratio and proportion has been a topic in primary school mathematics since the days of college exhibition. How and when ratio was removed from the complementary topics of proportion, fractions and percentages in the primary school curriculum may be a mystery to many, but not to me.
Over the years haphazard decisions have emerged from the Ministry of Education to reveal a general lack of expertise in education matters. The primary school mathematics curriculum should prepare learners with the skills that are relevant to their lives, so that students can manage the situations that confront them in daily living, such as when making purchases, sharing money equitably and checking the accuracy of their estimates. We need a local team of experts to arrest this dumbing down of the curriculum. It is a damning confession for anyone to admit that ratio is not mentioned in the primary mathematics curriculum at all.
But even so, any student who was properly taught would be able to solve the problem using fractional parts. But the public must take note that although there have been vast improvements in teaching in the primary schools, many SEA teachers rely on newspaper pull-outs with drill and practice questions. This tactic denies the students very important problem-solving experiences which would be the main reason many students complained about this question. However, I have found that many students solved the problem because their instruction was based on authentic learning tasks that reflected situations in the real world and their teachers were not slaves to drills. To ask CXC to exclude question 35 raises two very important issues. First, are we going to discriminate against the high achievers who solved the problem? To do so would contravene a basic principle of education where success is rewarded and never punished.
Second, we note that the Examinations Department of CXC has some of the most highly qualified people in education and in measurement and evaluation.
Most of these officers hold PhDs and would have undertaken research in education. How could these professionals be required to accede to the wishes of a particular government ministry for a particular question to be disregarded? Is this not tantamount to political interference in the examination process? This is a very dangerous trend and I am waiting to see CXC’s response to this foolish request.
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