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Beyond the SEA

Posted: March 30th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Column | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments »

My younger daughter just sat the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA). The exam, which used to be called the Common Entrance, is the be all and end all of every Trinidadian and Tobagonian child’s primary school career. All seven years of primary school lead up to SEA; it determines what secondary school you’ll attend, and by default, if you succeed in school or not.

That’s a pretty harsh and extreme position, you might say. Well, it’s not. While anybody can succeed in life given the right tools and encouragement, the average secondary school child in this country isn’t given either. Most go through the system like a dose of salts, as one aspiring education minister unfortunately said on the hustings during the last election. This year about 17,000 students sat the exam, which starts at 9 am and ends at 12.30 pm and covers English grammar, creative writing and mathematics. Of those thousands, about two or three thousand will end up in schools their parents consider “good”–either the denominational schools that by and large top the secondary school scholarship lists every year, or a well regarded government school, of which there are a handful. Each of these schools takes in about 120-150 students, tops. What happens to the rest of students?

The government some years ago instituted a rule that no child would fail the SEA outright. Instead, the lowest scoring pupils who sat the exam would either return to primary school for another–and another, and another, if necessary–chance to sit it. Those who aged out would go on to government secondary schools with remedial curricula. Those who sat and passed with better scores would go to mainstream or tech/voc government schools. The government also paid for places for students in private secondary schools. All children now go to secondary school. But it remains an unfortunate truth that the majority of those innocents who sat SEA Tuesday will not have the secondary schooling they deserve.

Overcrowded classes, understaffed schools, a curriculum that does not seem to meet their needs, and lack of parental input conspire to leave many of our youths still at sea when they go to secondary school.

As for my child, The Lady, I hope she passes for my alma mater, Bishop Anstey High School. If she doesn’t, I will send her to whatever school she passes for, support, guide and love her and hope for the best. Your schooling is not the sum of your education.

But maybe I get ahead of myself. The results don’t come out for another three months, so she has a nice break from academia–she had lessons before and after school, Saturdays and all through the holidays. She gets a break from hours of homework every single night and the horrible pressure of knowing this was the biggest exam she has ever had to do in her nearly 11 years. And I get to sleep late again. Until she starts Form One, anyway.


11 Comments on “Beyond the SEA”

  1. 1 Leah Sorias said at 7:17 pm on March 30th, 2011:

    I’m glad it’s all over…this chapter of her life that is. Next five years is another headache…lol

  2. 2 Ian said at 7:43 pm on March 30th, 2011:

    I remember after CE, those were the best days of my life, no pressure, no stress. I think I learned a lot more in those months b4 secondary school than while doing CE. Hope The Lady succeeds. Good luck!

  3. 3 lise said at 6:22 am on March 31st, 2011:

    Thanks… I keep joking she’s going to learn to knit and make muffins. But really, whatever programme they have for them, be it three months of R.I. or cooking, sewing, tying knots, it will be a welcome relief.

  4. 4 Carolyne Van Der Meer said at 10:08 am on March 31st, 2011:

    Lisa,
    I started following your blog because I was looking for information on Olive Senior, whom you once interviewed. I am about to begin a writing mentorship with her through a Canadian graduate program in Creative Writing. All this to say, I am really enjoying your blog, and find your thoughts often insightful and provocative. Thanks! And I do hope The Lady’s exam went well and she will get into your alma mater.

    All best from Montreal, Canada,
    Carolyne

  5. 5 lise said at 10:18 am on March 31st, 2011:

    That sounds very exciting… best wishes with the mentorship. Thanks for the comments, and the good wishes for The Lady. I’ll let you know how it goes. 🙂

  6. 6 Trinidad & Tobago: Education – Leaving Kids at Sea · Global Voices said at 11:55 am on March 31st, 2011:

    […] of those innocents who sat SEA Tuesday will not have the secondary schooling they deserve”: Lisa Allen-Agostini blogs about the state of education. […]

  7. 7 Trinidad & Tobago: Education – Leaving Kids at Sea | ServisTech said at 11:58 am on March 31st, 2011:

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  8. 8 Trinidad & Tobago: Education – Leaving Kids at Sea – Daringsearch said at 12:00 pm on March 31st, 2011:

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  9. 9 Le Ciel et La Terre | Revue de presse | Trinidad & Tobago: Education - Leaving Kids at Sea said at 12:01 pm on March 31st, 2011:

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  10. 10 Trinidad & Tobago: Education – Leaving Kids at Sea @ Current Affairs said at 1:23 pm on March 31st, 2011:

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  11. 11 Trinidad & Tobago: Education – Leaving Kids at Sea - mevsim Giyim, Tekinyer, alfa dvd said at 5:54 am on April 1st, 2011:

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