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Dr Gopeesingh defends Continuous Assessment: Education system should create holistic child
As Government moves full speed ahead to implement the Continuous Assessment Component (CAC) of the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA), $30 million is expected to be forked out on training and resources. Minister of Education Dr Tim Gopeesingh who sought to alleviate concerns over the CAC yesterday, made it clear that the initiative is here to stay, when he spoke at a press conference at the ministry’s office in St Clair.
“There is no need for any additional lessons to be given after school or for anyone now to be sending their students for lessons in preparations for these subjects that are now coming aboard,” Gopeesingh reiterated. Responding to concerns that there has not been sufficient consultation, the minister said it is “strange” that stakeholders “forgot” there was a national consultation on the CAC in March 2011 at the Cascadia Hotel, St Ann’s.
Apart from the national consultation, there were seven district consultations in Trinidad and one in Tobago. “Close to 80 per cent of the participants were in full support of introducing or strengthening the existing curriculum, where physical education, visual and performing arts, creative arts, agri-science, citizenry development . . . all of these will now be taught in a structured manner,” Gopeesingh said.
These non-academic subjects have always been on the curriculum but were either taught very little, or totally ignored. “Some were not even considered to be taught even up to Standard Two, and what was not examinable was not taught. So therefore those aspects were left out in the teaching of the primary schools for a number of years, to the disadvantage of these children, and preventing them from getting a holistic development in their primary school education,” Gopeesingh said.
The minister described the SEA as “one do-or-die examination which determined the fate of thousands of children on one particular morning” said said it was wiser to have a continuous assessment programme which would reduce the burden of the final examination.
“It is our wish that we can do away with the final SEA examination altogether but as we search around the world there is no mechanism at the moment that will facilitate replacement,” he said. Gopeesingh said the previous SEA system was not equitable because parents only wanted their children to attend “prestige” schools.
The minister, assured that resources would be equitably distributed at all schools. He acknowledged that storage in some schools might pose a challenge, but saidthe ministry was seeking to rectify this problem. “In our implementation, four main tasks are being acquired; training, resourcing of schools, quality assurance—also with CXC—and stakeholder engagement.”
Gopeesingh said although TTUTA had advised teachers to stay away from training programmes for CAC, there was a 91 per cent attendance rate. “The training is taking place during the regular teaching hours, not after school time, not on weekends or public holidays,” Gopeesingh said.
Further training is expected to take place during the academic year. Some 550 principals and senior teachers are also to be trained as instructional leaders, managers of CXC resources, managers and moderators of the process. “There is also training of over 200 external monitors, monitoring and evaluating the programme and CXC is providing the training,” Gopeesingh added.
He said between 40 and 50 per cent of pupils in the primary school system are underperforming. When the People’s Partnership assumed office two years ago, Gopeesingh said, the plan was to enhance the education system to create a holistic child.
“We came to the conclusion that the education must ensure the realisation of the holistic development, and fullest potential of the child is a necessity,” Gopeesingh said. He said a number of strategies were identified to meet that particular aim, including the instruction from Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar that there must be universal early childhood education for children ages three to five.