Trinidad and Tobago Humanist Association

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Provide opportunities for our young people to learn, experience and enjoy everything besides the accepted norm of what education is all about

Veronica Collens • 22 March 2005 • 496 words
"Published in Express "comment of the day", TNT Mirror

Thousands of young people breathed a sigh of relief last week after resurfacing from the examination rooms set up for the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA). Newspapers carried pictures of joyful students celebrating the end of months (and, for some, years) of drowning in homework, extra lessons and last-minute crams. Our newspapers even print sample test papers so our pupils can study round the clock.

There was a press report of a young man being carried to the classroom to sit the exam in pain because he was allegedly beaten by police officers and another being escorted to the ‘test site’ by prison officers from the Youth Training Centre at Golden Grove. Fair enough, with this present method of, dare I say, “intelligence evaluation”, being defined as SEAworthy.

When are we going to learn that putting our young people through this ‘be all and end all’ trial at the age of eleven is ignorance! Long ago, someone said, “The answer lies in the schoolbag.” But maybe it’s time we were done with the school bags - take the weight off their shoulders. Get rid of the waste of productive time caused by queues at down town stores for the books on the list. Books that are competitively written and often in questionable English. And who chooses the book list? We need to provide good, well-written and well-illustrated books in schools. Relieve our children from humping around tons of books on their backs. And then there’s the lunch kit to carry.

Provide opportunities for our young people to learn, experience and enjoy everything besides the accepted norm of what education is all about. Yes, we all need the three R’s, but they would mean more if they were not taught rote fashion. Creative teaching so that subjects like literature, science and languages don’t end up on the ‘vegetables’ side of students’ learning diet but are part of the main course. Subjects like sport, drama, art, dance, craft and music could be included within the curriculum, first-hand and not just in after school classes.

Acknowledge that not everyone has an academic leaning - yes, we need lawyers, doctors, accountants etc, but our society also needs farmers, plumbers, electricians, carpenters, bricklayers, bus drivers, firemen, nurses ... Where is the information about these professions that might encourage and inspire young people to join them from an early age? What status is given to these jobs so that young people and their parents or guardians feel proud that they have taken up an important role in society?

The Secondary Entrance Assessment does not seem to be any less stressful than the old Common Entrance examination, judging from the exclamations of “we free” and “it over” after this year’s torturous journey. Almost 20,000 young people sat through the four hour (four hours at eleven years old!) For some it might have been plain sailing, but for a good many others it was surely the equivalent of a tsunami.

See: TT Humanist Statement on "Enlightened Education"

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