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Call being made for the elimination of CEE

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A strong argument was made for the abolition of the Common Entrance Examinations by a number of persons attending a consultation on education last week.{{more}}

Last Thursday, January 26, parents, teachers and other stakeholders in education joined a Professor Errol Miller-led group of consultants at the Methodist Church Hall in Kingstown in an effort to map a way forward in education development.

The suggestion that the Common Entrance be replaced by an assessment program was put forward as one way in which students can reach their true potential, in an ever changing educational environment.

One parent, while making her presentation to the forum, characterized the examination, which determines primary school students’ places in secondary schools, as one of the most stressful days in the life of a young child, whose future, for the most part, is determined on one fateful Friday.

The parent suggested that on that day, unforeseen circumstances, along with the pressures of the day can cause the student not to perform as well as they could have.

“Today (Common Entrance Day), they will have three subjects; they will be tested on at least three areas: two in the morning and one in the afternoon… Common Entrance day, most of them go to a place they have never seen before… for this life determining exam.

“The parents are very anxious, hoping they would pass for High School or Grammar School… and that child who might have been doing well during the seven years they were in school, might just have a bad day that day, and would end up in some school he didn’t like. And somebody who might be very good at guessing might excel… and have to compete with other students who might have been toeing the line all along…”

The parent compared this day against the rest of the student’s academic life, where she reasoned that they would be subjected to a maximum of two examinations per day at secondary school, and one a day during university studies.

She said that in both cases, the older students would garner marks towards the final exam during their tenure at the institution and this is unfair to the child at primary school.

According to the parent, continuous assessment of the students over their approximate seven years at primary school could be a better way to determine which secondary schools the students should attend.

She reasoned that this form of assessment would also get parents more involved in the academic lives of their children sooner rather than later.

“Some parents don’t feel it is important to get involved in their children’s education until they reach grade six… What about the work that they did when they were coming up comfortable and relaxed and were in the same environment as their friends?

“I’m saying that I believe that it is unsatisfactory that one single day could largely determine the destiny of our boys and girls.”

Chief Consultant Miller, a Jamaican-born professor at the University of the West Indies, suggested that even if continuous assessment is the standard used to determine eligibility for secondary school placement, there may be problems in determining which student goes to which school, and it also does not solve the problem of tension and desire of the parents and students.

“Everybody wants to go to the top school, and the ministry has to find some basis by which to determine who would go or not go, other than who your parents are and who could pay…

And if there is continuous assessment, you still have to find out if you’re going to do it on the basis of merit because… you still have to figure out number one, number two, number three… as the only fair basis to determine who gets to go where….”

Last Thursday’s forum was one of many which took place last week, as stakeholders focused on the strengths and weaknesses of the education system.

Other suggestions put forward which they believe would improve the process included the teaching of Vincentian history in schools, a revamping of the schools booklists to include more local and regional textbooks, as well as the cut back on workshops and outside consultants.

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