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Garcia scraps CAC

Saturday, April 2, 2016
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Anthony Garcia

The Continuous Assessment Component (CAC) of the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) has been scrapped, Education Minister Anthony Garcia announced yesterday.

“Cabinet decided that students who are writing in May 2016 will write the exam for the CAC for the last time. This year is the last year for the students writing the SEA who will be saddled or burdened with CAC,” Garcia told the media at a press conference at the ministry’s St Clair head office.

Garcia said the Cabinet came to the decision after the ministry’s consultations on the education in February revealed CAC was being done to the detriment of the students.

“During these sessions there were discussions on major subjects, one of which was with the CAC component of SEA. Feedback that was held all told us that the CAC was something we had to disable,” Garcia said.

Garcia said the CAC put a number of students under stress and hindered teachers from thoroughly covering the academic syllabus. The removal of CAC means that Standard Five students who write SEA in 2017 will not be placed in a secondary school through results from the CAC. Only Creative Writing will be continued from the programme. Now, Mathematics will count for 50 per cent, Language Arts for 30 per cent and Creative Writing for 20 per cent of the SEA exam.

Chief Education Officer (CEO) Harrilal Seecharan said the results from CAC also showed that students struggled to learn the full syllabus or teachers were unable to teach them.

“We found that there were too many things to teach in the short time period. Last year a report was done that flagged these issues. …Continuous assessment in itself is not a bad thing,” Seecharan said.

He emphasised that while CAC marks would no longer be used to place students in secondary schools, the subjects taught would not be removed and the students would still be assessed without the pressure of secondary school placement.

Since the inception of CAC, the T&T Unified Teacher’s Association (TTUTA) has been advocating for stronger consultation regarding the implementation of the assessment.

“TTUTA, since the inception of CAC in 2012, would have would have called for multiple consultations on the matter...There was a lack of resources, a lack of proper thinking for our teachers and it created undue stress for our teachers and students,” TTUTA’s first vice president Antonia De Freitas said following the announcement.

Primary School Principal’s Association president Cogland Griffith also welcomed its removal, saying it will allow students to be students instead of children who are forced to learn through rote methods. He emphasised that while the students may not be tested in the eight subjects, they will now be able to learn and appreciate them without pressure.

Griffith noted that students were no longer able to do subjects like physical education because they were being restricted to activities that were tested in CAC. Now he hopes students would be able to enjoy these subjects again.

National Parent Teachers Association (NPTA) first vice-president Maureen Taylor-Ryan agreed the move was best for the students, but noted that the courses taught in CAC had merit, particularly the creative writing component.

CAC was introduced in 2012 as a way to add diversification into the SEA syllabus. From the academic year 2013-2014, 20 per cent of the marks originated from Standard Four performance and another 20 per cent from Standard Five. Areas in which pupils were continuously assessed included dance, drama, agricultural science, citizenship education, visual arts education, music, physical education and character education.

Yesterday, Candice Assee, whose ten-year-old daughter attends Arima Presbyterian Primary School, expressed her relief that CAC would no longer influence student placement. She said she knows a large number of students who excelled in the Mathematics and Language Arts papers, achieving marks in the 90th percentile, but who were not placed in the school of their choice because their CAC marks were in the 40th percentile.

“I have written to Anthony Garcia countless times,” she said. “I monitor everything...The teachers were not teaching writing. They were sending it home to the parent,” Assee said.

Efforts to contact former education minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh, who implemented CAC, were unsuccessful yesterday as he did not answer calls to his cellphone.


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