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For the past ten years, around 18,000 children annually have been facing the Secondary Entrance Assessment examinations.
For the past ten years, around 10% have been failing the SEA.
Failing a school exam used to mean you got under 50%. Not in the SEA. Failing SEA means you got under 30%!
Last year, 2017 students (12.3%) attained scores lower than 30 percent. It’s been around that figure for the last 20 years.
There are students who score below 10% and there have been some cases of students scoring zero. After seven years of school, a student scores zero in the school-leaving exam. Poor little boy, because for sure is a boy.
Nobody noticed? Nobody said, “Nah, something is wrong with this child. Let’s check him out?”
That’s the worst-case scenario. Under 30% is not much better. We know that students who perform below the 30 per cent mark and who are under 13, can resit the exam. There were 803 such cases in last year’s exam. What happens to the other 1200? What happens to the 9000 who get under 50%?
Where do they end up? Well, you might answer, somebody “have” to become a maxi tout. Somebody “have” to become a clerk. Somebody “have” to clean the street. Somebody “have” to join a gang.
Such questions to the Ministry of Education (MOE), however, go unanswered. One gets the impression there is a great deal of disinterest. Is this what the MOE is about? This is the sum total of their ambition?
Or is it that the MOE has decided that there are too many children with disabilities, hidden ones, in the system so there is little that could be done, so chew fat, dem to ketch and when my time done I gone, with my pension.
I ask these questions because of my experience with the last five Ministers of Education, only one of whom, Mrs Hazel Manning, ever expressed interest in children with disabilities and under whose purview the Inclusive Education Programme was being actively discussed.
The less I comment about MOE technical advisers the better. I was repeatedly told by senior officers, after I was appointed Head of the MOE Advisory Board on Disabilities in 2006, that “the children fail because they stubborn, lazy or stupid.”
That’s what senior people in the MOE thought about children with hidden disabilities in 2006.
Here are some figures from the few studies done on school children in T&T. The MOE Student Support Services estimated in 2006 that one on four of our primary school children (23%) had “Special Educational Needs”. From a student population examined of approximately 16,000, 3900 were referred to them for learning and behavioural problems. Those are not “stubborn” or “lazy” or “stupid”, eh? Those are children who have been analysed by the MOE itself and found to have problems learning!
In the same year, 3% (924 of 30,921) of primary school children failed the National Hearing Screening testing that is supposed to be administered at entry into primary school.
What happened to them? At that time there was no audiologist in the government service available to examine them further. What is happening today?
In 2009, UWI Professor Hutchinson published a paper on ADHD in Trinidadian adolescents. Just over 4% of boys in secondary school were diagnosed with ADHD. The figure leapt up to 24.6% for institutions!
What happened to them? How many received help? Where are they now?
Back to the SEA failures. 2000 failures a year is 20,000 in ten years. We think we know what happened to half (they repeated, but not told how many failed the repeat). That leaves 10,000 out there. Doing what?
How many vagrants come from that group? How many drug addicts?
These are the questions that the public has to ask all politicians or would be politicians.
What are you doing about the failures in the educational system? What are you doing about the children with hidden disabilities?
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