There is also a separate claim that a male examiner fell asleep, snoring during the test.
In a May 4 letter to the Education Ministry’s permanent secretary, 11 parents called for an investigation on how the exam was administered and supervised.
All of the parents, who signed the letter, said their children had been placed at a disadvantage which could affect the outcome of the results.
They said that could have “legal implications” should their children’s placement be negatively affected and alleged “the integrity of the SEA examination 2018 throughout Trinidad and Tobago has been drastically compromised.”
In the letter, copied to Chief Education Officer Harrilal Seecharan, principal Ria Dwarika and three school supervisors in the St Patrick Education District, the parents drew attention to what they termed “negligence displayed by the supervisory staff” as well as changes in the order of the exam causing anxiety and throwing the students into chaos.
The parents outlined that during the preparation for the exam, the students were made to follow an order of the subjects prescribed by the Division of Educational Research and Evaluation (DERE), starting with English Language Arts Writing, Mathematics and English Language Arts.
However, on the day of the exam, which started at 9 am instead of 8.30 am, this sequence was not followed, which the parents said left them “aghast” and caused their children to lose concentration.
“We were, therefore, aghast when our children informed us that the order of the exam had been changed on the day of SEA, and they had done English Language Arts before Mathematics. We could have seen, quite clearly, the horror and dismay expressed on our children’s faces, thinking they had done something wrong and that they would be penalised for this,” the parents stated.
“We want to emphasise the chaos and anxiety created in our children’s minds which led to they being unsettled and nervous as they struggled to complete the exams. Bearing in mind they had been well-prepared up to this point, the irregular order resulted in a lapse in their concentration and a decline in their level of confidence, ultimately affecting their overall performance.”
A copy of the letter was also sent to the president of the TT Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) Lynsley Doodhai. In a note on the letter copied to Doodhai, the sender stated the children complained to parents “that one of the examiners was asleep and snoring (male examiner).” This claim is not contained in the May 4 letter sent to the ministry.
A ministry official told Sunday Newsday that, while the allegations would be looked into, someone seemed to be up to mischief as the parents were not in the room with the students and were speaking from second- and third-hand information.
Additionally, the official said after the exam there were allegations of leakage of the papers but all systems were checked and no leaks were discovered. The official said new mechanisms had been put in place to safeguard the integrity of the SEA exam and, going forward, monitors would not be able to peruse the papers and all extras would be sent back to the ministry among other measures.
In response to the late start, the official recalled there was a prompt start to the exam, except for two of the 545 centres, and that did not impact on the conduct of the test.
A total of 19,208 students, 9,741boys and 9,467 girls wrote the exam. The official pointed out that about 325 special-needs children also wrote the exam and would have benefited from concessions such as extra time, a sign language interpreter, large print or braille scripts, preferential seating and a provision for a writer or reader.