Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh says he is “welcoming suggestions to do away with the dreadful Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) examination”.
The SEA is the defining national primary school exam which pupils sit to enter secondary school.
Gopeesingh made the comment at the Ministry’s SEA 2013 Awards Ceremony at the Grand Ballroom, Hilton Trinidad, St Ann’s, yesterday.
It was held to honour 200 outstanding pupils from among 17,000 who had written the exam last year.
The children wore their respective school uniforms to celebrate their milestones.
Among those present were Chief Education Officer Harrilal Seecharan, who delivered the welcome address; guest speaker Sandhya Sookhoo, the top 2013 SEA pupil; along with scores of proud parents and school principals.
Gopeesingh said: “I wish I can do away with the dreadful SEA exam...trials and tribulations. It is the dream of every pupil to go to a (high) school. We want to deal with the situation. We are open to suggestions. It is a fight with the issue of placement of students.”
The Minister paid kudos to Dr Michael Dowlat, chairman of the Accreditation Council and principal of Naparima College, San Fernando, for his stewardship.
“About 27 of the 200 students are represented here today. We are hoping for more Island Schol winners in a few years,” he said.
Gopeesingh also commended the children.
“It is hard work in preparation, hard work in application. You have given your time and effort.”
Imparting a nugget of advice to the youngsters, Gopeesingh said it was important for them to develop holistically—emotionally, mentally and psychologically.
“Pursue the academic aspects, but it is important to decide upon your extra-curricular activities. It will make you into an all-round citizen, you will be a well-balanced individual. Play sports, be a prolific reader. Enjoy the savannahs. Play cricket or football.”
Gopeesingh cited the example of champion Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt who surmounted obstacles, including crushing poverty in his native Jamaica.
“Usain Bolt was prepared to surmount those obstacles. Sports teaches you about discipline. Listen to the coach, manage your time.”
In his motivational segment, Gopeesingh also made reference to the late historian/prime minister Dr Eric Williams’ legacy.
“You carry the future of Trinidad and Tobago in your school bags,” he said.
Reflecting on the countdown to SEA, Sandhya Sookhoo said: “Long school days—classes in the morning, to top it off homework and practice. Time management is important, but with the love and support from our parents we made it.”
In response to the Minister’s comments on the SEA, Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) president Devanand Sinanan stated: “Welcome move.
“We have known for quite some time we need to get rid of the SEA. It means there is a place for every child, so you have seamless transition from primary to secondary. There is no need for SEA, because we no longer have a problem for places. But what we need to ensure is they have attained a level of numeracy and literacy. We are indeed happy if Gopeesingh wants to move in that direction. The system has to be put in place.”
Sinanan also said any “good educator should not discriminate against learners based on cognitive ability. We should work with any child that is presented before us.”