TTUTA former president Trevor Oliver supports Education Minister Anthony Garcia’s stance to retain the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) Exam, even as Barbados is moving to scrap it.
“There ought to be some tweaking, but I don’t believe we could just do away with the exam,” Oliver told Newsday on Thursday.
“There are weaknesses and strengths to the exam, So you can’t just throw out the baby with the bath water. Some things need to be eliminated, some things need to be brought in.
“Many children have problems with their reading, and literacy is something you have to deal with. It affects comprehension and critical thinking. My feeling is that too many people want to remove the SEA Exam but have nothing to put in its place.
"I tend to agree with Mr Garcia that it can’t be removed right now, but I want some tweaking.”
Oliver based his views on his 40 years experience in teaching.
“Nothing is being done to tweak it or to put something in its place. Merely moving it will create a vacuum and when you create as vacuum stupidity will come in to fill it.”
Newsday asked what tweaking he’d like to see in the SEA Exam.
“The whole question of reading and literacy has to be improved. The teaching of literacy has fallen down. Some teachers do well but others seem not to have the competence.”
Newsday asked if pupil illiteracy simply reflected a society that hardly reads any more including many teachers themselves.
Oliver replied that just as medical doctors must regularly upgrade themselves, so too must teachers. Newsday asked about the Continuous Assessment Component (CAC) inserted into the SEA Exam (to include activities like dance and drama) under former minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh but since ditched by Garcia.
“That was a good idea but the way it was put in needed to be tweaked,” Oliver said. “Some schools could have afforded to bring in professional musicians and dancers, so the CAC was lopsided. We have to ensure we have a level playing field.”
Asked his final thoughts, Oliver repeated his lament over pupil illiteracy. “We have a crisis in terms of reading. The problem with reading has now gone into mathematics where pupils cannot read to understand what they are being asked to do. We have to deal with that.”
Last June, at a BLP rally in Bridgetown, Barbados PM Mia Mottley vowed to abolish the "iniquity of the 11-plus exam" and create middle schools.
“At the end of the second form, they can decide if they want to do a science, or technical or humanities or sports or history and geography or commerce or IT,” she had said. “We have to create an educational system that makes every school a top school!
“All of us know you cannot discard people at 11 and 12 years old like if they are going on the dump heap of life and everybody is telling them that they haven't passed.” She said youngsters 15-23 are the ones getting into trouble. “We can do better.
"There is no doubt in my mind that what we are facing is people who have been ignored and discarded and for whom there has not been sufficient attention. Everybody has a talent. Every single human being has a talent.
“Every child has a talent and we are discarding too many and we are paying the price.”