Seventy-three of the 124 students who scored under 30 per cent at the recently concluded Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) examination have participated in the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) vacation enrichment programme, geared at facilitating their transition into secondary school, come September.
This was just one of the revelations made by Chief Secretary and Secretary of Education Kelvin Charles, as he gave updates on his division while addressing reporters during the weekly post-Executive Council media briefing on Wednesday in Scarborough.
The vacation enrichment programme, according to Charles, was designed specifically for SEA students who did not perform well.
“There were 124 students who got under 30 per cent, as opposed to 167 last year, so of course there was a percentage improvement there of 26 per cent," Charles said.
The Education Secretary lamented though that more students did not take advantage of the programme.
“There were 80 students that were registered for the programme and 73 attended. What this speaks to is that approximately one third of the (124) students did not attend, and these are students who are going to secondary school and missed the opportunity to be part of a programme that would have facilitated their transition in respect of the acquisition of certain skills, particularly math and language."
Charles however refused to blame the students.
“They could not have done that on their own; it would seem to me that the parents of these children would have been the ones who made the determination that these students would not attend and perhaps may have opted for other choices. Suffice to say, however, that of the 73 students that attended, the assessment suggest that they benefited tremendously… One of the reasons I think had to do with the fact that the programme was executed this year by the instructional coaches of mathematics and language, in the main, and of course we had other persons doing the softer areas in respect of whether it was art and craft, music, drama and the likes.”
A research study camp was also instituted for the first time on student underachievement in Tobago. Students from standard four in the primary schools and fourth form students in the secondary school were targeted and selected by their principals, according to Charles.
“The objectives include the need to collect baseline data on factors that may be causing student underachievement in schools, through, among other things, exposing them to foundational subjects in numeracy and literacy. Of course, it’s also designed to enhance the understanding of these disciplines and to see to what extent the data allows us from a scientific perspective to prescribe possible solutions or to design practical strategies that will aid or assist in improving the performance level of these students.”
The participating schools at the secondary level were Pentecostal Light and Life Foundation, Scarborough Secondary, Mason Hall Secondary and Signal Hill Secondary, while Patience Hill Government, Lambeau Anglican, Scarborough RC, Bon Accord Government, Montgomery Government and Black Rock Government participated at the primary school level.
Phase one, he said, is currently ongoing, having began on August 5 and will run through till August 30. Following which, the camp will move into phase two, which he said is more to do with the collection of data and the presentation and analysis of that data.
“We are systematically moving to improve the teaching and learning situation in our schools. But more particularly, we are using a scientific approach because we are of the view that policy prescriptions ought to be driven by data. It is for that reason, among other things, that we talked about, in respect of the performance at SEA recently where we celebrated three students for the first time attaining marks that propelled them into the first 200
"We changed the system and therefore we changed the results. So, we’re continuing on the vein of ensuring that whatever we do in education is driven by scientific data.”
Additionally, in September 2018 and June 2019, Tobago students of standards one, two and three were assessed. This assessment, according to Charles is unprecedented on the educational landscape of TT, as for the first time the division is able to track the performance of students from standards one to three.
“In September 2018, candidates’ knowledge of the curricular content of the previous year level was assessed. This means, for example, that the candidates of standard one was tested on the infant two content of the current year. Then in June 2019, the candidates were assessed on the curriculum content of the current year level and the data gathered from both assessments are being used at this time to determine the status of performance of these students at our schools.”
These results will be shared with the principals and then the media.