Back to normal SEA-saw

BC Pires -
BC Pires -



TWO THURSDAYS ago, Trinidad and Tobago’s 11-year-olds sat the Secondary Entrance Assessment, hoping to pass for a “prestige school” which, in Trinidad, means one where the students are more afraid of the teachers than vice versa.

In sympathy with people who may have fallen off the path to a stable life before they fell off their SEA-bike, and using questions from a Newsday practice test, I’ll wrestle with what we now call, not English, but “Language Arts,” to signify that “dem oppressor cyar teach we nutten becaw we go oppress they mother grammar, on’stan’?”

Language Arts

Section I

Task 1.
Identify and correct the six spelling mistakes: It is useful to plant flours that attract bees, birds and butterflyes that make a gardin feel lively. One should exercise caushon when useing chemicals which can be toxick for these animals as well as humans.

It’s no surprise children are getting stupider when the examiners can’t think of better spelling errors. The “flours,” eg, would be much more confusing if the task was set in a bakery and it was useful to get good quality flower. Why not “usefull” instead of “useing?" Why stick an e into what could have been the very plausible “butterflys” and make the misspelling so obvious? Also, in Barbados, “gardin” would be spelled correctly as it is pronounced.

Task 2.
Correct the six punctuation and capitalisation errors: ”Let’s go for a drive!” Father suggested. Giselle and I were ecstatic! We prepared for the drive to manzanilla Beach by packing all the necessities drinks, food and snacks. Afterwards everyone piled into the vehicle. we spent the journey singing and eating.

If this was still Task 1, the spelling error in the first line would be ecstatic, which every 11-year-old Machel Montano fan in Trinidad knows is really spelled Xtatik. But how dull must the home lives of Giselle and the narrator of the task be if they’re getting excited about going for a drive in Trinidad? They’re going to be thrilled by the prospect of sitting in unmoving traffic for hours?

On the upside, it would be a big plus for them every morning going to big school. Also, eating and singing for the three-hour drive to Manzanilla would mean you had to clean the car when you got to the beach, not when you got back home; all that Crix-and-salt-butter or macaroni pie and dhalpuri flying all over the car every time they reached a chorus. And where did this “Father” car-actor come from, if not Yankee cultural imperialism? Giselle and the-I were lucky Father didn’t exclaim, “Road trip!” And take them to prom.

Task 3.
Correct the six grammar errors: Kwame stretch out his hand but he couldn’t reach the mango. He took a stick and hitted the stem. However, the stubborn mango refused to budge. He frustrated lunged towards it and it tumbled out of the tree. He brother, whom was in the gallery, roared with laughter. Kwame didn’t care. He gotten his mango!

Again, the mistakes are too easy to spot. I know we want children to do better in the SEA but we should do it by teaching them better, not by making the errors so glaring. Who in Trinidad, even in the most rango of dispensations, ever “hitted” anything? Except in the chorus of a Mighty Gabby song about cricket? Too besides, a Trini would quicker have forgotten his mango than gotten it.

Given that we are doing Language Arts and not English, I think I could better (and politically) correct these grammatical errors by rewriting using the grammar of dialect, using
CAPS to show corrections: Kwame stretch out
HE hand but he couldn’t
A reach the mango. He
TAKE a stick and
LASH the stem. He
JULIE mango…tumble out the tree. He brother,
WHICH was in the gallery,

Would that our 11-year-olds could be that lucky.

BC Pires is likely to, not so much pass, as to be passed like a full bus. Read the full version of this column on Saturday at Happy Chocolate Eggs to all.


"Back to normal SEA-saw"

More in this section