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Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly.

Anna-Lisa Paul

With the 2020 Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) exam having to be postponed for four months because of COVID-19, the Ministry of Education (MOE) has moved to ensure this does not reoccur next year.

It has announced that the 2021 exam will take place on June 10.

The ministry’s acting Chief Education Officer Lisa Henry David yesterday explained that the virus had necessitated adjustments to the SEA 2019 – 2023 Assessment Framework, as the ministry advised all public and private primary school principals of adjustments to the curriculum.

David advised that narrative writing would be assessed for 2021 only.

The 22-page document circulated to principals revealed adjustments to English Language Arts Writing; a reduction in the number of test items in the Reading Comprehension component of English Language Arts; and the reduction in the number of test items in Mathematics.

The aspects which remain unchanged include the types of thinking skills that will be assessed for both Mathematics and English Language Arts; the time for administration of the SEA; the scoring of the examination scripts; and the criteria for placement.

The specific English Language Arts skills to be assessed are English Language Arts Writing, Spelling, Grammar, Punctuation, Capitalisation and Reading Comprehension.

In Mathematics – Number, Measurement, Geometry and Statistics will be assessed.

Proposed revisions in the area of Reading Comprehension include a reduction in the number of test items in each text type including:

– Fiction/Non-Fiction: from ten to seven test items;

– Poetry: from ten to seven;

– Graphic: from five to four.

Second Vice-President of the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA), Kryla Robertson-Thomas said while they have not been able to closely examine the entire document they welcomed the fact that the number of objectives had been reduced.

However, she added, “We had suggested to the Ministry of Education that the exam be held in June, but later in June, because still we have some students who have not been reached due to connectivity issues and so on, and we thought topics would have been removed but we are seeing that mainly it is objectives that have been removed which is something totally different.”

“We still have concerns because you would want all students to have an equal chance of doing well and there are students who are not being reached because they either have no connectivity or devices and even with the ones we are engaging…some are not grasping as well as others, this new mode of learning.”

Robertson-Thomas said if schools reopened in January to allow some face-to-face interaction between teachers and students, “That would only give us about five months and that is a short period of time to try and cover all of those things effectively so that all students grasp what they need to know to be ready for the exam.”