The Ministry of Education has introduced a policy framework governing the administration of the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) exam— with special emphasis being focused on the English Language and Mathematics curriculum guides of 2013.
In 2013, the Primary Curriculum Rewrite (PCR) was completed establishing a modern approach that purposefully pulls together knowledge, skills, attitudes and values from all subject areas to develop a more comprehensive understanding of fundamental ideas.
Intended for use by all stakeholders with candidates who are expected to write the SEA for the period 2019-2023, officials at the Ministry of Education have said the PCR is intended to develop the critical thinking capacity of all students, while also helping to strengthen their analytical and interpretative skills.
In an interview, Garcia said the new policy included changes to the syllabus as well as integrated teaching mechanisms for the classroom.
Garcia stressed that prior to the exam being set, officials were made aware that they need to cater to “A wide range of abilities and therefore the questions themselves would have to include lower order questions, general knowledge questions, and higher order questions that deal with analysis and interpretation.”President of the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association, (TTUTA), Lynsley Doodhai confirmed they were aware of the changes to the curriculum and the new assessment framework.
Doodhai said, “The Association was of the view and we are still of the view that there could have been greater training of teachers with respect to the transition to a new assessment framework which calls for more critical thinking.”
Doodhai advocated that, “Critical thinking skills is something that has to be taught to teachers and is also something that has to be taught to students, and if teachers are required to teach critical thinking skills to students, then the teachers also need to be prepared to do that.”
“As far as we are concerned, the ministry did not adequately prepare teachers to teach children to think critically.”
Curriculum and education expert, Professor Michael Bradshaw agreed that while one or two of the questions might have proven to be difficult, “The majority of the comments was really because there was a lack of the critical thinking aspect being taught in schools, so the students did not have enough practice.”
Referring to the compilation of the Trinidad Guardian’s SEA Practice Test available every Wednesday, Bradshaw said he advised the examiners to include questions featuring the critical thinking aspect as, “For too long, children have been spoon-fed and given facts to regurgitate but we really need to get critical thinkers in our system.”
He stressed that while children began displaying critical thinking aptitudes from an early age, “It was at different levels.”
A clinical expert who declined to be named insisted the Barbadian model had more merit in this area as it encouraged youngsters to play as, “It create energy and allows creativity to take hold of the child.”
“To be critical, you need to have creative backgrounds. You need to be able to think outside the box and that is what play does. It lightens up the mind which is wholly involved when one is playing so that is important.”
He warned, “If they are not doing that from the first year class straight to the fifth year, and when they come to the SEA year now and they want the children to be creative now…it is not going to work.”
“This has to be a progressive system.”
- by Anna Lisa Paul