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Monday 22 July 2019
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Commentary

Parents stressed out

Stress. Increasingly recognised as a “silent killer,” aggravating diabetes or heart conditions, “stress” is described as “a demand on physical or mental energy; pressure or tension exerted on a material object.” The dictionary further describes “stress disease” as “a disease resulting from continuous mental stress.” Stress also gets you short-tempered, such as what happens during, heavy congested traffic.

The system through the SEA and inequitable schooling has indirectly institutionalized a shameful, stressful system of social injustice. (read below). The high-stakes, 11-plus competition has life long consequences. And parents, unable to see change, remain very concerned, stressed out, year after year. Children too. What else when an average of one to every four students gets into their school of choice? See what happens when the SEA results for the today’s 18,849 students are released – flood of tears following the minister’s expensive celebration of “the first 100.”

So anyone telling parents don’t be stressed, “don’t transfer their stress upon the students” obviously have their heads conveniently buried in the sand. Conveniently afraid to confront the fundamental issues. Just passing the buck – leaving inequity in the education system as the jumbie the authorities afraid to touch. I refer to the following column (edited) of last May 13, 2017.

“These18,240 SEA students came from parents of different ethnicities – some rich, some poor; some single, some completely absent. These embattled students also came from different primary schools – some better than others – spread across eight educational administrative districts. Some are denominational (church), some are government, some privately owned.

“The competitive SEA exam itself has become a boiling-point stressor, with entry into a “prestige secondary school” as a major goal. Secondary schools are now judged by academic output, meaning CXC passes and scholarships, for example. And the schools know that. Students’ battle for their life chances virtually begins with the SEA.

“The prevailing, dominant value in the society is for a grammar education through “prestige” secondary schools, then into university to head into one or the other “professions.”

To what extent is our education system unwittingly preserving the existing socio-economic stratification system?

“Inequity rears its head from the primary school – even from the fee-paying differentiations at kindergarten and the growing number of expensive private schools. Take the Upper Level Test from 2010 to 2014. Students from schools in districts Caroni and Victoria consistently showed significantly higher scores than those in Tobago and North Eastern. In the 2012 SEA, while the national average was 4.8 % of students scoring 90 % and above, schools in Caroni and Victoria produced 6.6 % and 9.7 % respectively. And these were mainly denominational schools. For Tobago, less than one per cent (0.6%) of its students crossed the 90% score.

“From 2007 to 2011, a much higher proportion of males than females scored 30% or less in the SEA – almost a 3:1 proportion. Where are these boys now? Check the prisons. (R Deosaran. Inequality, Crime and Education in Trinidad and Tobago: Removing the Masks, 2016, pp 200-210)

“Of the 17,268 who wrote in 2010, 62.5% of females scored 90% and higher in the SEA while 37.5% of males did so. In fact, since then, in every year, more females scored 90% and higher than males, thus entering “prestige schools” in higher proportions than males. Privately-run, fee-paying primary schools do very well. So where does all this leave the “poor, Govt school boy?” Remand Yard?

“We surveyed 1300 to find out what they did three years after leaving secondary school. We found that a much higher proportion of students from “prestige schools” entered university while those from other types ended up “working only.” While, for example, 72% of East Indian students (mainly females) sampled went into university, 47% Africans and 49% of the mixed group respectively did so. (See Inequality, Crime and Education, 2016).

While 65% of students from two-parent homes went into university (48% UWI), 52% from single-parent homes did so (32% UWI). “Upper social class students had the highest proportion (85%) entering university. Lower class had 47%.” It is manly the battle between prestige schools and government schools which help perpetuate the social stratification system. Parents have a right to be stressed out. It is time for the Education Minister and Prime Minister to speak up on reform.

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