Chief Sec praises students at primary schools plenary debate

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

“The future is in good hands,” declared THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine after the first-ever primary schools plenary debate on Thursday at the Assembly Legislature in Scarborough.

Eighteen primary schools from across Tobago participated in the debate, which saw 23 students and 21 alternates debate a motion on the annual Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA).

Motion centred on whether the executive council should create a student-based team to examine the impacts of the SEA examination and consider integrating the Montessori method into Tobago’s education system.

Augustine said having listened to the students, they all did excellently throughout their presentations. He commended the presentation by electoral representative for Bon Accord/Crown Point Leston Paul, who referred to the old adage that children must be seen and not heard. Rather, Paul said he was taking the opportunity to be heard.

“I agree with you fully that we believe that young people should be both seen and should be heard – that you should be given a voice and you’re never too young to have a voice on issues that would impact your own lives. You’re never too young to have an opinion, and I hope teachers and parents are prepared to deal with opinionated pupils, because that makes for scholarships and scholarly work.”

He called on the teachers to encourage the talent in their classrooms, noting that a pupil who is articulate and able to share their opinions in a respectful manner is in fact a pupil who should be encouraged to continually do so.

Participants pose for a group photo as THA representatives stand behind them after the inaugural primary schools plenary debate at the Tobago House of Assembly Legislature in Scarborough, on Thursday. PHOTO COURTESY THA – THA

“What we want to do is to engender critical thinking among our pupils and teach them to question every single thing. That is a critical part of their education.”

He added: “After listening to you, I feel as though I can hang up my jacket and resign and hand over to you guys to take charge of Tobago. Tobago is truly in very, very good hands with you. Our future looks absolutely bright.”

Presiding Officer Abby Taylor agreed. Congratulating the students, Taylor said in writing out her speech, she looked to the walls and saw the foundation, heritage and a house already built. However, she said looking at the students, she saw the future and a legacy.

“I must say, Tobago is in good hands.”

She hastened to caution the adults.

“In order for them to come in here and do this so well, it shows that they are listening, they are looking on. We have a duty to act accordingly. Our future depends on it.”

Secretary of Education, Research and Technology Zorisha Hackett who is also the electoral representative for Plymouth/ Les Coteaux, said the discussions not only highlighted the students’ understanding of the current educational landscape but also demonstrated their commitment to shaping its future. She said Taylor’s vision must be saluted, as her leadership had made the event possible, along with her staff.

“Today’s debate has certainly illuminated the importance of including student perspectives in educational reform. You, our students, have demonstrated maturity, insight and a deep concern for the future of Tobago.

“As secretary, I am committed to ensuring that your voices continue to be heard and that your ideas help shape the policies that would guide our educational future.

“It doesn’t end today, of course. Together, we can build an educational environment that is inclusive, innovative and responsive to all the needs of our students.”


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