The Ministry of Education will hold national consultations before it attempts to introduce the Caribbean Examination Council's (CXC) continuous assessment programme in primary schools, Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh said last week.
Speaking at the launch of the CXC /Nelson Thornes Study Guides at the Crowne Plaza, Gopeesingh, who said there was no set time frame for the national consultation to begin, told the media that CXC had brought the primary exit exam to his Ministry for study and the technical officers were looking into it.
He said it was time for the country to decide whether the Secondary Entrance Assessment exam (SEA) should continue or whether there should be a continuous assessment programme that will allow them to analyse the performance of the child as they move from year to year.
"I believe it is really the desire of the nation to move away from this one do-or-die SEA, understandably most parents and educators want to see the end of that but this will necessitate major stakeholders consultation and national consultation moving forward.
"I will first have to bring a note to Cabinet with all the matters related to it for Cabinet consideration and then obviously to the wider public and then major discussions and what is the role of the denominational boards and the concordat that we have in this whole matter. But the facts would have to be gathered before it is taken to the Cabinet."
Gopeesingh said the question is how does the Ministry then place students, based on what and where will the continuous assessment start.
"Is it from Standard One to Standard Five? These are the issues we will have to take to the national population."
He said he believes the smaller Caribbean islands which have already implemented the CXC continuous assessment programme in the primary schools place their students based on geographical location but what may be applicable to the smaller countries with a smaller group of students may not be applicable to Trinidad with 17,000 plus students a year moving from primary to secondary.
"So it is both a logistical problem and an educators problem this is why we have been working with CXC on the continued assessment component for the primary school to give a certain percentage of marks for the SEA. He said there is already continuous assessment at the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC), the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Exam (CAPE) and tertiary education so why is the primary level being left out, he asked.
The national consultation, he said, would look at the SEA but also whether there should be a national consultation on the relationship of the State and the concordat.
"That is another thing that the Minister of Education cannot deal with on his own, I will not, I cannot. It is an area for the State to deal with. Whether we want a stakeholders consultation on the concordat because we have 18 denominational boards that manage about 40 of the primary schools and 43 of the secondary schools and close to 40 of the Early Childhood Care and Education centres," he said.
President of the National Parent Teachers Association Zena Ramatali said the national consultation was a welcome move.