18,849 to sit exams on April 4

A to­tal of 18,849 pupils across Trinidad and To­ba­go will be sit­ting the Sec­ondary En­trance As­sess­ment next week, a key ex­am­i­na­tion which will de­ter­mine their place­ment in the sec­ondary school sys­tem.

They will be­come the first group of stu­dents in eight years to write the ex­am dur­ing the sec­ond term of the aca­d­e­m­ic year. Usu­al­ly, the ex­am is held in the first two weeks of May. This year the ex­am will be held on April 4.

The ear­li­er ex­am will al­low ex­am­in­ers more time to cor­rect the pa­pers.

SEA was moved to fi­nal school term in 2012, as it would in­crease teach­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for pupils, ac­cord­ing to min­istry of­fi­cials. The teach­ers’ union, TTUTA, had raised con­cerns last year that they were not con­sult­ed about the change be­fore it was an­nounced.

TTUTA Pres­i­dent Lyns­ley Doo­d­hai said de­spite the ad­just­ment, teach­ers did their best to en­sure stu­dents were pre­pared.

“We are con­fi­dent that the teach­ers would have done their very best to pre­pare their stu­dents for the SEA ex­am­i­na­tion. This would have been so de­spite the SEA be­ing brought for­ward by ap­prox­i­mate­ly one month,” said Doo­d­hai on Tues­day.

“TTUTA would like to com­mend all teach­ers and par­ents who would have gone the ex­tra mile to pre­pare these chil­dren for the ex­am­i­na­tion,” he said.

Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter An­tho­ny Gar­cia said the SEA was among many ex­ams placed un­der scruti­ny dur­ing pub­lic con­sul­ta­tions on Ed­u­ca­tion in 2016.

“We did not see any fun­da­men­tal dif­fer­ence in terms of scores be­tween stu­dents who wrote the ex­am in the third term as op­posed to the sec­ond term,” said Gar­cia, a no­tion that was reaf­firmed by the Chief Ed­u­ca­tion Of­fi­cer Har­ri­lal Seecha­ran who al­so de­tailed ad­di­tion­al chal­lenges the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion staff faced due to the lat­er date.

“Dur­ing the May pe­ri­od what you had is com­pet­ing de­mands from ex­am staff with re­spect to stor­age space for ex­am per­son­nel which cre­at­ed ad­di­tion­al chal­lenges with­in the min­istry in terms of man­ag­ing the ex­am,” said Seecha­ran, who said the mark­ing process al­so cre­at­ed ad­di­tion­al ex­pens­es due to the over­lap with sec­ondary school ex­ams like CSEC and CAPE as well the reg­u­lar school term ac­tiv­i­ties.

“The Min­istry ac­tu­al­ly in­curred sig­nif­i­cant costs in terms of per­sons work­ing two shifts or very late hours be­cause we now had lit­er­al­ly three weeks to process re­sults,” said Har­ri­lal.

“We are do­ing every­thing pos­si­ble to en­sure that our stu­dents are giv­en every op­por­tu­ni­ty to per­form to the best of their abil­i­ty in this ex­am­i­na­tion,” said Gar­cia, who gave as­sur­ances that all sys­tems were in place for the as­sess­ment to pro­ceed with­out a hitch next week dur­ing a press con­fer­ence at Ed­u­ca­tion Tow­er yes­ter­day.

Of the 18,849 stu­dents, 933 of those stu­dents would be sit­ting the ex­am in To­ba­go.

Over 260 con­ces­sions have been grant­ed for spe­cial needs stu­dents to sit the ex­am, Seecha­ran con­firmed dur­ing the press con­fer­ence.

“The grant­i­ng of con­ces­sions for stu­dents who may have whether it’s spe­cial needs or oth­er dis­abil­i­ties. I can tell you this year we have had re­quests for 403 stu­dents for con­ces­sions, we’ve ac­tu­al­ly ap­proved 284 — 24 of those have been with­drawn,” said Seecha­ran.

“Con­ces­sions are not meant to give stu­dents an ad­van­tage, it is re­al­ly to give stu­dents who may have chal­lenges an equal chance of per­form­ing as any oth­er stu­dent,” said Seecha­ran, who said these con­ces­sions were grant­ed based on im­pair­ments such as hear­ing and vi­su­al or oth­er phys­i­cal as well as learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties or dis­or­ders.

The two main pub­lic util­i­ties, WASA and T&TEC, will be on stand­by to re­store sup­ply in the event of an emer­gency, Seecha­ran said.

- by Peter Christopher

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