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Tuesday 20 August 2019
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Parental guidance advised

PARENTS are misbehaving. Or at least that’s the picture painted this week by two key authority figures: Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith and Children’s Authority director Safiya Noel. Coming ahead of tomorrow’s SEA examination, both perspectives further a valuable debate on the education system and the impact of parenting as a whole.

On the one hand, according to Griffith, are the lax parents who are wilfully blind to their children’s criminality. On the other hand are those who, in Noel’s estimation, push their children so hard as to become abusive. Both views present the extremities of a wildly varied range of parenting modes. Still, Griffith and Noel have highlighted an important consideration: the attitude of the adults in the room.

Every year there are complaints over the stresses of the SEA. The annual repeat of the lament is a sign the problem still needs to be addressed, either through substantial reform or abolition. The doing away of Common Entrance was clearly not the panacea many had hoped for. Nor was the introduction of reliance on coursework during term time a measure which did not remove the pressures of a final examination.

The debate should look to countries that have systems different from ours. For example, Norway forbids the handing down of official marks to students between the ages of six and 13. Teachers provide analysis of progress, tests are taken home and shown to parents. Marking only begins from the age of 13 upwards at the lower secondary school level.

When it comes to reform locally, however, part of the difficulty involves the complex relationship between the Concordat and the role of still influential denominational boards and the religious bodies they emanate from. The education is a complex jigsaw puzzle with parallel government and government-supported streams that do not always mesh.

Also, the informal prestige school system is still, in today’s day and age, a formidable consideration. Parents, though, must shoulder the blame for furthering the myopic belief that one’s destiny is linked to one’s alma mater. The education system should be about serving the needs of children, not placing them in a rat race.

The SEA exam does perform a useful function of matching children to the schools that best meets their needs. At the same time, it also does a disservice to students who are perhaps not fitted to its peculiar mode of assessment. The problem is the complexity of assessing a child’s aptitude will always render any measure fraught.

The good thing about all of the debate this year is how the role of parents has been emphasised. It’s finally hitting home that it’s not the children but the parents who need guidance.

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