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SEA system failing our children

Once again the question of whether the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) examination should be retained has arrived in the public domain for discussion and input, and once again I am obliged to reiterate my stand on this subject. Before we get to the examination itself, let us look at some of the issues in the culture that this examination has spawned.
1. The perpetuation of the lessons culture which some parents are hard-pressed to afford, while some teachers are smiling on their way to the bank. Some say that some students and parents are held to ransom, in that the full course material is only given to those students who take lessons.
2. The perpetuation of the prestige school syndrome, which causes some students and parents to feel like losers and causes considerable embarrassment in some cases. Some parents who are financially and socially well placed are able to bypass the system by coercion, favours and the infamous Concordat. Students who are placed in these ways frequently fail to meet the accepted standards.
3. One of the most troubling aspects of the SEA fallout is the insidious competition among parents who equate social and financial prominence with prestige school admittance, to the chagrin of the not-so-well-to-do.
There is no doubt that the SEA examination causes stress among students and parents, as evidenced by the many instances of blackouts, anxiety, nausea and pre- and post-examination trauma.
In the not-so-strong, suicidal tendencies can come to the fore. I cannot understand why you have both the SEA and the Continuous Assessment Component operating side by side and you use only the SEA to determine final placement.
Is it a Continuous Stress Component?
What is the value in having all that information from the Continuous Assessment Component if you do not use it. That is a far superior system of placement.
Our system already guarantees every child a secondary education. Why not make it a seamless transition as is the case in many other countries far more developed than us. The SEA system panders to a pervasive colonial mentality that we cannot seem to shake. We must not continue to placate those with vested interests.
Continuous Assessment already has in place a complete academic record of every child, plus attendance, punctuality and behaviour. It has records of each child’s athletic ability, musical, drama and dance ability, proficiency, attitude to schooling and authority. The brightest students, should be placed accordingly, bearing in mind that all schools should be brought up to a high standard.
We should nevertheless attempt to gradually phase out the prestige school system, in order to have a level playing field for all. Just to be clear, I am not eating sour grapes, I went to a so-called prestige school, my two children passed the SEA, high in the first 100 and went on to prestige schools and scholarships.
I am seeking equity for all children, rich and poor, bright and not-so-bright. I am pleading with the Government to cure all the ills of the SEA and set things right for the future of education in this country.
For those who say,the children need challenges and should be faced with obstacles, I guarantee you that there are no shortages of challenges and obstacles on their way to a good education and a comfortable life.
Joel Quintal
San Fernando
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