GOVERNMENT’s remedial programme for the 9,000 children who scored less than 50 per cent in the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) exam is a knee-jerk reaction to a failing education system.
In putting forward this theory, political leader of the Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) David Abdulah also linked the rise in crime and violence to failures in education and not “poor parenting” as put forward by the Prime Minister.
“The issue of crime and violence is not just one of economic poverty. It is about the poverty of hope in the future. It is about discrimination, inequality and injustice.
“Unless and until we transform the education system so that every child has a real opportunity to fulfil their potential – whatever their God given talents might be – and transform the economic system so that there are opportunities for them to utilise those talents to the max and be properly rewarded with a decent life, then we will continue to reap the whirlwind of violence.”
In a statement on Sunday, Abdulah said, what he called, the failed education system was one of the most important issues facing the country. The recent SEA result was evidence of that.
Abdulah said Dr Rowley’s expectation of a weaker performance, given that the 2021-2022 academic year was physically closed, demonstrated how clueless the Prime Minister was.
“We have had very high failure rates for SEA for years and this is also the scenario for the CSEC exams at fifth form level. The fact is that our education system has been failing a very large proportion of our students for decades and absolutely nothing has been done to address this by successive governments.”
While successes should be celebrated, he suggested that the publication of scholarship winners and top-performing SEA students had lulled the country into a false sense about the true state of the education system.
Abdulah said the vacation programme by the Ministry of Education, with free meals being dangled like a carrot, is a reactive measure after the fact. Measures should have been implemented to prevent such a high failure rate, given the pandemic.
He repeated the MSJ’s proposal to hire unemployed university graduates to be supplemental teachers, thus reducing the size of the classroom and assist struggling students so no one will be left behind.
He claimed the majority of students who had been disadvantaged by the exam results were children of the poor and workers at the lower-income scale, who were unable to provide for the "extra classes" or for the necessary IT devices.
He referenced the parliamentary report on “Underperformance of Schools in the Port of Spain and Environs District with respect to Performance in Terminal Examinations” which, he said, told of the failure to provide young people with the opportunities to maximise their full potential.
Abdulah added that for those who succeed, there was little or nothing to make the conscious choice to live in TT and, therefore, “The real failure is not one of 'poor parenting' but of a political class that has failed to do what is necessary to make the changes that are necessary so that everyone can have a better life.
“Dr Rowley, by the policies of his government, is the one who has failed."