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