Don’t put off, scrap SEA

Education Minister Nyan Gadsby-Dolly - SUREASH CHOLAI
Education Minister Nyan Gadsby-Dolly - SUREASH CHOLAI

THE EDITOR: Once again calls are being made for the postponement or cancellation of the SEA exam in 2021. The stakeholders, led by the National Parent-Teachers Association, are making the first calls this time around. I have not read or heard of the position of various principals' associations. The teachers’ union? Coming to that in a while.

What is the rationale this time around? I suggest that some now realise the whole online platform supplemented in part by the printing and packaging industry at schools has failed.

Like an honest trainer or a good coach, many parents and teachers realise that the children are going to underperform. Again like the good coach/trainer, they acknowledge the students will be further damaged psychologically, that the “let's get it over with'' approach is not going to cut it either. It aggravates the injuries picked up along the way.

What will postponing the exam do? It is first aid. With an injury one immobilises the player and applies an ice pack to reduce the swelling and numb the pain. But one does not send the athlete back out without further long-term treatment. The injury will move from acute to chronic and possible permanent damage.

Belatedly, some of these stakeholders are now calling for the scrapping of the SEA exam and for a replacement. What will replace it? I hold that it is not about replacement. It is imperative that we determine what social outcomes we want from education, beyond training to find a job.

Hell, there is very little we can thank covid19 for but it has lifted the veil from our eyes. It has accelerated and impacted the shape of the labour market, the technology/ies of production, the layout of industry. There is no large job market to be filled by graduates ''secondary and further,'' as they say in education. Someone told me that he encountered a doctor who was vending on the sidewalk. The permanent worker is an endangered species here in TT.

And the elephant in the class/room, not the fly on the wall, is the Concordat. If that remains, the changes made will be token.

Where is TTUTA in all this? It seems that the union has been left behind, unlike in Grenada and Belize; that it has missed the boat. Oh, it will have a seat at the consultation table and will meet with the “Great Gadsby” (apologies to F Scott Fitzgerald), who, let us admit, has outfoxed them. Maybe I missed it, but should they not have been in the vanguard to lead change?

They are strategically placed in the system and are recognised as the voice of teachers. They seem to have opted for the martyrdom approach which asks the public ''to empathise with their good works and capacity to sacrifice for the sake of the nation's children.'' Maybe they need to be reminded that there is a clear distinction between sacrifice and suffering, that talk-show appearances and JTUM platforms are barren soil these days.

As ever, the teachers face a major pitfall. Exhausted in battle, they look forward to holidays. Seven weeks of rest. Like the woman/man overboard who stumbles to shore and is just grateful to be on land, they will find, come September, that the necessary changes have not been initiated, that the “Great Gatsby,” herself well rested, awaits to usher them back into the status quo.

Of course the Grenada/Belize model of resistance remains an option, does it not?




"Don’t put off, scrap SEA"

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