Parent of another affected student says: ‘SEA reward system needs reform not scrapping’

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly. FILE PHOTO –

THE recent mix-up in the top performers list for the 2020 Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA), which was widely reported in the media, has led another parent to come forward to highlight a similar incident involving his child who wrote the 2021 SEA exam.

Marvin Mc Intosh said the Ministry of Education needs to evaluate – and if need be – revamp the system of marking the SEA exams to prevent or minimise incorrect scores given, which not only can mentally affect the student but could also mean the difference in them being placed in their third or fourth choice of secondary school when they ought to have been placed in their second or even first choice.

He also believes a plan to scrap the SEA top performer awards system should not be implemented as top performing students deserve recognition for their hard work and sacrifice, similar to the recognition given to top students in the CAPE exam.

Speaking to Newsday earlier this week, Mc Intosh said his daughter –whose name he asked to be kept out of the story – went through a similar experience after she wrote the exam in 2021.

He provided documents to Newsday which showed that his daughter was given total (100 out of 100) in English Language Arts Writing; 94.44 in English Language Arts; and 86.61 in Mathematics. She was ranked 98th nationally for the 2021 SEA exam, based in these results.

He later queried the results and the review results showed her marks for both English papers remained the same, but for Math, she was moved from 86.61 to total.

McIntosh said he then wrote a letter to the ministry calling for a review of his daughter’s secondary school placement based on the new scores.

A response letter from the ministry, he said, confirmed that her rank was moved from 98th to a tie for second place overall.

He said the ministry also told him it couldn’t make any further adjustments to the SEA top performers list because those awarded are normally identified based on the preliminary results.

Mc Intosh said this existing system had robbed his daughter of the recognition she deserved for the months of sacrifice leading up to the exam.

Last week, a mix-up in the 2020 SEA top performers scores was only resolved when lawyers got involved and which eventually saw Aaron Subero and Ameerah Beekhoo receiving the President’s Medal (Gold) during a ceremony at President’s House on Monday.

Following this mix-up, Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly said her ministry would scrap the SEA top performers award system and let children focus on doing their best. She said this would reduce the burden involved with the placement element.

But Mc Intosh said rewards encourage success.

“It helps motivate and we must want to bring out the best in our people. I think it should be corrected versus coming out and saying you should do away with it (the awards). It all boils down to fairness and equity for all children,” he said.

“You have the President’s Medal for those awarded for CAPE and rewarding from an early age helps them strive. It is there to say, ‘excellence is noted and matters.’ It’s not to say the other children’s efforts aren’t recognised but if you already have a system, what is the purpose of doing away with it?

“So you are doing away with it because people asked for reviews or threatened lawsuits? If that is the case they should do away with CAPE rewards also. That’s the wrong direction for the minister to take,” he said.

He suggested that the system used to reward CAPE top performers be used in place of the existing SEA rewards assessment system. He said there should be a period allowed, after the results are released, for any queries to be made and then after this is done and satisfied, should the ministry identify the top SEA performers instead of depending wholly and solely on the preliminary results list.

Efforts to reach Gadsby-Dolly, who it was announced on Monday was covid-positive, have proven futile.