One for the children

Photo courtesy Pixabay
Photo courtesy Pixabay

THE RESULTS are in. Siri Vadlamudi from Grant Memorial Presbyterian Primary School is the first-place student in the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) examination for 2019. She will be heading to Naparima Girls’ in September. Megan Ramoutar, of TML Primary School, earned second place. She heads to St Joseph’s Convent, San Fernando, in the new term. Third place Manasseh Mohammed from Canaan Presbyterian Primary School will be off to Naparima College. Sebastian Rampersad from the Buccoo Government Primary School is the top Tobago student.

All should be congratulated, as should all the other students who sat this examination, their parents, teachers and supporters.

Minister of Education Anthony Garcia had some sobering advice to parents going into yesterday’s results. “Your response to your child’s results will dictate your child’s self-esteem and the way they view their results,” he warned. “The SEA is a placement examination and will not dictate how a child will perform in the next five years. A seed once, once nurtured, can bloom and thrive in some of the toughest environments. The nurturing at this time is the support of parents.”

The minister’s comments point to the nature of the current system of placement: its pressures, its emphasis on competitive ranking as opposed to matching students with needs, its implicit support of the so-called prestige school system. When it comes to this examination, can we find a way forward to ease the pressures placed on families, whether self-inflicted or otherwise? Can we reduce the margin for error when it comes to matching potential with opportunity?

Questions have been raised when it comes to the annual publication of the list of students who have passed. It’s clear that concerns about transparency and fairness in the system have been used to justify this practice for years. It’s equally clear this practice, in an age of greater sensitivity to the rights of the child, the rights of families, and in an age when personal data is now more valuable than ever before, has outlived its usefulness. At the very least it has always been hard to square any practice that did not give people a say in publication with the civic ideals that are at the foundation of the education system.

We need new systems to regulate quality at all schools and to also assess matters such as security, social access and resource allocation. Stakeholders, including trade unions, NGOs and denominational boards, should be part of a new, bold vision that, instead of parading our children once every year, truly places their needs above everything else.

We celebrate the great talent among us. We, however, urge the State to harness its own talents in paving a more sustainable way forward.


"One for the children"

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