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So the 2018 results are in and one little boy was lucky enough to get 100% in the exam confirming in the imaginations of Trinidadians that boys smarter than girls, you know! Well congratulations to him and his parents and the other 99 who came in the first 100, they don’t need much else, they on their way to university and success outside T&T and we lucky if one or two return to fight up with the professional standards we maintain.
While everybody is basking in the success of a few, as if any of us had anything to do with it, what is happening to the over 2500 boys and girls (ever wonder how many of those are boys, never mind not even the Ministry of Education knows…ask them, nuh?) who failed the exam abysmally by getting under 30% and in whose failure we all had much to do by ignoring them year after year after year and by not putting in place mechanisms to assist.
2595. That is the number failed this year.
Last year it was 2170. Keep going back. Average 2000 a year. Work out how many failed an exam whose official pass mark is 30! (As if the child who gets 31% or 40% or even 50% is much better). That works out to over 36,000 children who cannot read or write and who have failed since 2000. As BC Pires said in last Saturday’s column, “There aren’t that many cars to wash.”
Who said they washing cars? On the street boys do that. What do girls do? It’s a shame to boast that so many children pass 30%. If you take a more likely figure as pass, say 50, just over 40% or 7674 students failed Math. In Grammar it was similar. 42% or 8057 failed.
Don’t let this 30% business allow the Ministry to pull wool over your eye. They already trying to do it by claiming they have a plan to deal with the 2595 failures…at age 11!
On Saturday, the T&T Guardian headline was: “Help available for SEA pupils who got under 30%.” The Minister of Education claimed, while speaking in the Senate last Thursday, that “support for teachers and students will be provided by school supervisors, Student Support Services (SSS) and curriculum officers through clinical supervision and teaching and learning strategies for students who may have challenges to learning.”
In this instance, the Honourable Minister seems to be lesser than exact with his facts. First of all Minister, it is not “may have challenges to learning.” When a student goes through seven years of your educational system and comes out getting less than 30% in the final exam, that is not “may,” that is “july.” Second, as you well know, the SSS is incapable of dealing with this amount of students. The service has been emasculated by successive Ministers of Education.
Hear the president of the T&T Unified Teachers Association, Mr Lynsley Doodhai in the T&T Guardian of July 3, calling on government “to expend additional resources to the Student Support Services,” saying “there were not enough professionals at the SSS to deal with increasing challenges at schools.”
Listen to the founder and chair of the Mariama Counselling and Activity Centre for Children and Adolescents, psychologist Anna Maria Mora, also in Saturday’s T&T Guardian: “Historically and presently, Student Support Services continues to be overwhelmed and young people must wait for as much as six months to one year for an assessment.”
These are professionals, dealing every day with disturbed children, not politicians glibly pontificating.
The first step in dealing with the issue is to establish a national centre where children with special needs can be diagnosed before they are three years of age. This is what Senator Paul Richards called for in the Senate two weeks ago.
Second, we need to fully staff the SSS. And third, increase the number of school psychologists, social workers, special-ed teachers in primary schools. Our future demands nothing less.
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