AND SO another episode of the dreaded Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) is over and more than 18,000 students and their parents breathe a sigh of relief – that it is over and they will never again have to sit such a high-stakes examination for the rest of their lives.
And, of course the debate ensued before and after the SEA about its merits and demerits, whether the exercise is needed or not. Experts both in and out of education weighed in on the process with calls to undertake a review of the process emanating from some quarters.
Like a soap opera, this is a familiar ritual we undergo each year and incredibly nothing changes except the date and the name.
Modern education systems around the world would never subject their students to such a high-stakes examination at such a tender age, for they are fully cognisant of the harmful effect it can have on the child. Researchers in the field of education and medical science have repeatedly pointed out the harmful effects of this aspect of our education system, yet still we persist with it.
We talk about quality education and excellence in education, the need to ensure that our school graduates are critical thinkers and innovators, the need for students to create knowledge and solve problems and master artificial intelligence but we persist with the most antiquated approach to education.
We persist with an arrangement that has outlived its usefulness over two decades ago, knowing its negative impact on human capacity development. We see thousands of our impressionable young minds learn to hate school for what it represents – anything but fun.
The preparation for SEA begins from the tender age of six, with the school day lasting up to ten hours, including weekends and holidays, sitting on hard benches in hot crowded classrooms. Education is narrowed to cognitive development, remember and understand, focusing on the linguistic and mathematical intelligences, despite claims to the contrary from the authorities.
For many “passing” for a good school is the objective, notwithstanding the economic, social and emotional cost. Good school means one run by a denominational board, where the child stands an ideal chance of gaining a scholarship upon sitting CAPE. So education is equated to the mere passing of examinations or certification.
This notion prevails in the minds of the average citizen despite what the experts and researchers tell us. With that public perception prevalent, the decision-makers are mortally afraid to dismantle an arrangement that is inimical to our quest for human capacity building, never mind it ensures that a significant portion of our children are certified as failures from a tender age with this stratified system of secondary schools.
Its continuation ensures that the returns on our investment in education are limited since it reduces education to mere certification and a means of perpetuating a class differential – pigmentocracy modified. It handicaps our ability to ensure that all our children are given the opportunity to realise their full human potential, add value to their own lives and to the society.
Its capacity to produce certified failures has been identified as a major platform for the creation of criminals – people who feel cheated and marginalised, robbed of any chance to become successful. Its perpetuation is a clear indicator of our lack of understanding of the nature and purpose of education and misplaced priorities as a people.
What is even more pathetic is the reluctance on the part of education researchers to condemn and denounce the arrangement in no uncertain terms, for they too are fearful of the wrath of those who benefit from the perpetuation of the status quo.
Given all of the above it is no wonder that the biggest changes to come from the politicians are the name and date changes. Political capital takes precedence over actions that are in the best interest of the country.
Teachers too, taking their mandate from the wider society, pander to the uninformed perceptions of the nature and purpose of education held by the wider society and unwittingly contribute to the state of societal dysfunction through this miseducation.
While most proponents of change are looking toward the politicians, it’s the proverbial chicken and egg situation. History will teach us that fundamental change comes from the people and not the leaders. It is time for teachers, the people who know best about education, to lead the charge for change. As professionals our body of specialised skills and knowledge provides the authority to call for, promote and insist on meaningful change.