THE EDITOR: Here are a few comments on the piece titled “SEA and high-stakes testing” in TTUTA’s weekly column in Tuesday’s Newsday.
What a great article. But we need action now. Here are some suggestions for TTUTA to move the ball forward.
TTUTA as the body representing the nation’s teachers at primary and secondary level must do the following:
1. Identify research by its members (teachers) or former members on the SEA (Common Entrance exam; 11-Plus exam) done at UWI or UTT or even abroad and make the findings of that research available to the public, parents, denominational school boards, PTAs, the Ministry of Education and other interested parties.
2. Issue a position paper (with a time frame) on the replacement of this high-stakes testing (SEA) with a seamless system transitioning students from elementary to secondary schooling as obtains in Canada, the US and some European countries. Since Finland has a globally acknowledged system of excellent education, maybe the focus could be on the Finnish model.
3. Have discussions with its members (teachers) who are part of the “paid lessons industry” as to how we can get rid of this parasitic industry. This is the industry that feeds on the fears of parents that their child will not pass for a prestige school (and at the secondary level will not get the grades for a scholarship). It is a given that all Standard Four and Standard Five students must/will take lessons.
4. Partner with other stakeholders to ensure that quality ECCE programmes are available to all preschool children. Current neuroscience and brain research tells us that these first five years of life are critical in brain development.
5. TTUTA must call for an end to the national scholarship system based on CAPE results. This is another SEA – this time at the advanced level; a high-stakes test also with devastating consequences. Scholarships should only be awarded for postgraduate studies and only in fields that have been identified as critical to national development.
The GATE programme can take care of aspiring tertiary-level students by providing means-based funding. Parents who wish to send their children abroad can still do so – at their expense.
The time to move away from the SEA is now. No more excuses by those in authority.
RALPH ASHTON via e-mail