Let’s talk first
By CAROL MATROO Sunday, July 15 2012
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TALKING EDUCATION: President of the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers' Association, Roustan Job, from left, former Teacher of the Year Martin Lumki...
President of the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers’ Association, Roustan Job, believes that there should be consultation between the union and Education Ministry, before a new curriculum is implemented and students are asked to undergo the Continuous Assessment Component (CAC) for the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) examinations.
In May, Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh announced that he intended to push for a change in the curriculum to include non-academic subjects such as physical education, visual and performing arts, creative arts, agri-science, citizen development, character development, ethics and more for Standard Five students. However, Job said such a decision required that all the stakeholders get together to hold consultation well before the matter is brought to the public.
“The minister may mean well with his interventions at this time, but whenever we decide to tinker with the curriculum in our schools, primary or secondary, we believe firmly that consultation must take place with the stakeholders,” Job told members of the media at Friday’s launch of the Frank B Seepersad Memorial Teacher of the Year Award 2012, at Cascadia Hotel, St Ann’s.
“We are saying between TTUTA and the Ministry of Education, we have to talk. We don’t want things to be flung outside there and then we’re reacting. Whenever there are interventions or we are bringing changes to the curriculum, you speak to the relevant stakeholders, even the parents. That is what we’d like to see. We hope that Dr Gopeesingh will get that message from now on.”
Some parents whose children are now in Standard Four and preparing for next year’s SEA exam, say while students will benefit from the new curriculum, the timing is all wrong. The parents are arguing it is unfair that their children be graded on subjects they had no previous experience with, saying it would be ideally suited for pupils in Standard One and could even be achieved by Standard Three students.
Job said this is something they needed to discuss in TTUTA.
“We prefer to discuss it properly and then put it out there for public consultation,” he said.
Asked to comment on the fact that the SEA results were released a bit later than usual, Job said
since there was a change in the structure of the exams and given the time, that may have presented some problems.
“But to be honest with you, again that is something that should have been discussed with the stakeholders rather than ramming it or forcing it down people’s throat. So I am hoping that at the end of the day, even though the exam has come and gone, we have some dialogue with the Minister of Education and other stakeholders as to how it should be done in the future,” he said.
Job said although TTUTA has contacted the ministry on the matter, it was to no avail. However, he said he hoped that since the August vacation was now here, that calmer voices would be heard since there were a number of issues in education that need to be discussed.
“And no one person can or must try to dictate how things must be done in this country. We represent 16,000 teachers in the country and that says a lot. Therefore, the union is a major stakeholder in this whole thing, and we would like to hear more from the NPTA (National Parent Teacher Association) also. We hope that when they speak, they can speak bravely and solidly on behalf of the parents of Trinidad and Tobago,” the TTUTA president said.
Job also said that for the new school year in September, he would like to see all teachers’ salary issues settled, adding the union was currently negotiating for new terms and conditions. He said in negotiating for an increase in teachers’ salaries, the union has moved away from the percentage increase and instead looked at the external labour market, compared where they were at now and what was happening in the market, and then tried to get to the market through negotiations.
Asked if there could be protests by teachers, Job said, “One can never tell because the negotiations take place around the table and in the streets. Last Friday we had a protest outside the CPO’s (Chief Personnel Officer) office, and I think that did a whole lot of good because we discerned a softening of the CPO’s attitude towards the negotiations.”
The TTUTA president also admitted he was concerned about illiteracy in the nation’s schools, saying he had been saying this has been a problem for years.
“I see it, there is illiteracy and therefore we need to tackle that and find some programmes. Other countries are tackling it. In the United States they have a serious literacy problem, but they are finding ways and means to tackle from the root,” Job said.
“We can’t have children coming to primary school and when you get into the secondary school you are still illiterate. We are saying that there must be a programme in place for such, and I think the ministry was looking at it, to put such a programme in place to ensure that our children can be literate, and that they are not passing through the primary or secondary school system as illiterate.”
Job said in his years as a teacher, he has had to deal with students in as high as Form Four who could not read.
“At a school I was at, and I am talking about a Form Four class, when I decided to check their reading skills, out of the 20 students or so only four could have really read, and that was cause for concern,” he said.
“That’s why we are saying we have to do like the other countries and put programmes in place, open up adult literacy classes, because it is something people must be able to do. It is very frustrating when someone cannot read. I am happy to see the work that Paula Lucie-Smith, who conducts teen and adult literacy classes, is doing with our advice, we want some more of that. And that is where the parents come in also. If you are a parent who is not literate it would be very unfortunate for your child,” Job said.