Moves to make SEA less stressful
By CAROL MATROO and MARLENE AUGUSTINE Friday, May 9 2014
EDUCATION Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh says Government is looking at ways of reducing the stress on students who sit the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) examination in a heated competition for places in the choicest “prestige” secondary schools.
Speaking at a post-Cabinet press briefing yesterday at the Office of the Prime Minister in St Clair, Dr Gopeesingh said this entails increasing the percentage of marks accumulated by way of school based course work (known as the Continuous Assessment Component (CAC), towards the SEA exam final marks.
The Minister said while he agrees with the TT Unified Teachers’ Association (TTUTA) that the SEA exam is “cruel and inhumane”, he noted there needs to be public consultations so that a consensus can be reached on a long-term solution to the SEA exam.
For this year, CAC marks formed 20 percent of the overall SEA grades but Gopeesingh said that in 2015, the CAC would account for 40 percent of the final SEA grade. This would reduce the stress of a three-hour SEA exam.
This year 9,312 boys and 9,033 girls wrote the SEA exam.
Gopeesingh said the ministry continues to have consultations on the issue of placement and noted that parents wanted their children to go to the best performing schools.
He reported that the number of schools receiving scholarships have been expanding from 24 to 42 and Government secondary schools are also being added to the list. Gopeesingh said the plan is to bring the other 80 secondary schools up to that higher level to ensure equity in performance. He noted one alternative to the SEA would be zoning, which is practised in Finland and the United States where students attend Early Childhood, primary and secondary schools in their particular zone (where they live).
Reports from several schools indicated that the 2014 SEA examination went smoothly, unlike last year when students and teachers experienced difficulty with a SEA math question which was not covered in the syllabus. At many schools in the capital and along the East/West Corridor which Newsday visited, there was a common theme among SEA students and their parents — relief.
Luann Morancie, whose child attends Sacred Heart Boys’ RC on Richmond Street, Port-of-Spain, said she was relieved the exam was over. “I am happy and nervous at the same time. But it feels great to know that the two years of stress in terms of rigid lessons and revision, is finally over. I am glad, children can relax a bit and enjoy the rest of their vacation before moving on to secondary school,” she said. In the east, students of the El Dorado North and South Hindu primary schools were jubilant that the exams were over.
As the exam ended, students rushed into the arms of their relieved parents. A teacher at El Dorado North, who did not give her name, reported that the exams were on time, students were prompt and everything went like clockwork. She said the students seemed confident as they went into the exam room.