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Newly-appointed Minister of Education Dr Nyan Gabsy-Dolly addresses SEA students at the Gandhi Memorial Vedic School in Aranguez, San Juan, yesterday.

Newly-appointed Minister of Education Nyan Gadsby-Dolly and Minister in the ministry Lisa Morris-Julian have vowed to transform and modernise operations in the ministry.

In her first interaction with the media since her appointment Wednesday, Gadsby-Dolly yesterday said concerns relating to the Concordat and how students are assessed and placed in secondary schools are issues that “are very long-standing and impactful and important issues that we have been circling around for quite some time.”

“Again, there are issues we have to look at. Also, very important is the issue the Prime Minister would have spoken to yesterday (Wednesday) of curriculum reform and the expansion of the curriculum and what it would include,” Gadsby-Dolly said following visits to some schools to see how Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) examinations were going.

“There are a lot of issues that have to be looked at. Some would be easier to deal with than others. Some of them are deeply embedded into our culture and so, looking at all of that is what we intend to do.”

Gadsby-Dolly said the administration of yesterday’s exam had gone smoothly. Up to 1.30 pm yesterday, Gadsby-Dolly said no reports of an untoward nature had been received.

Approximately 19,363 students were registered to write the exam but it was unclear up to last evening just how many students actually wrote the exam. However, five students in Tobago did not sit the exam, three of them directly as a result of the COVID-19 virus.

Commending students islandwide for the resilience they had shown in the months leading up to the exam, which had been initially scheduled for April 2, Gadsby-Dolly said Government was proud of them for staying the course. She also complimented teachers for ensuring their charges adhered to the public health regulations while in school.

Asked how they intended to move the teaching and learning process forward now, Gadsby-Dolly said, “The ministry was prepared with a blended learning type approach based on the trajectory we were on but given the recent circumstances and the Prime Minister’s declaration of the 28-days of pause, that has placed things in a different light and so the ministry is at this point preparing a new way forward with respect to how we deal with totally online learning.”

She stressed that discussions with stakeholders ahead would not only focus on learning via the internet, as there were children without electronic devices and WiFi connectivity, while others lack proper supervision.

Claiming many principals and teachers had begun devising their own methods to reach students, as they understood their respective schools’ cultures, Gadsby-Dolly said, “The ministry is at the point where they are finalising the new protocols based on the emerging situation we are in now. By tomorrow (today), that should come to the executive of the ministry and we will be taking a look at that for finalisation on Monday…and certainly within that week between Monday and Friday, that’s next week, to finalise how those protocols will be.”

She underscored that every school would have its’ own guidelines for moving forward and the input of the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) and National Council of Parent-Teacher Association (NCPTA) will be sought.

As two former educators and as mothers whose children are also experiencing this unique situation, Gadsby-Dolly added, “We want to be able to understand the needs of all, that is the main thing…understanding there are different perspectives to this thing and everybody is interested in the education of our children and everybody is interested to make sure that children are not left behind.

“So we bring that empathy, we bring that understanding and we bring that nurturing spirit. We are women, we are mothers, we are educators, so I think it brings the best combination of experience to the ministry and we care about what happens to our nation’s children. We both feel very deeply about the awesome sense of responsibility that has been placed on our shoulders.”

Echoing her colleague’s sentiments, Morris-Julian promised teamwork from the two as she said, “I know there will be great expectations from teachers and parents and students, and we will do our absolute best. I am a hard worker and I have been paired with an extremely hard worker so what you will see from us is teamwork and two mothers making sure we do the best for the nation’s children.”