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Trinidad postpones Secondary Entrance exam


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Trinidad postpones Secondary Entrance exam
Nyan Gadsby-Dolly. (CMC)

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Port of Spain – Minister of Education Nyan Gadsby-Dolly announced Thursday that the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) examination, which had been scheduled for June 10, has been postponed to July 1 due to the recent surge in COVID-19 cases.

“This has become necessary due to the trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing challenges posed by the health regulations at this time,” she said at a post-Cabinet press conference where she gave the update on the exam which is done by primary school children to determine their admission to public secondary school.

Gadsby-Dolly noted that when initial stakeholder consultations were held on April 22, the COVID-19 seven-day average for Trinidad and Tobago was 89, with new cases at 81.

“Due to concerns about the safety of face-to-face interactions with those numbers of positive cases, and taking into consideration the students who had been working diligently towards having SEA on that date, the decision was taken to leave the examination on June 10, with the clear understanding that physical preparation classes were not likely, and the desire to cause the least disruption possible to these students who have already been through a challenging time over the past 14 months,” she said, adding that by April 28 when that decision was announced, the new cases had increased to 223 with a seven-day average of 136.

However, Gadsby-Dolly noted, as of Thursday, the infection rate has increased rapidly, with new infections reported at over 600 in recent daily updates, and a current seven-day average as high as 478.

“On August 20th, 2020, when the last SEA examination was held, the number of infections reported was 81, with a seven-day average of 52. Compare that to our present numbers of 501 and a seven-day average approximating 478, and it is clear that the three weeks left to the scheduled June 10th date for SEA will likely not be enough to allow for the level of decrease needed to achieve an atmosphere of reasonable safety in which to implement the examination,” the Education Minister said.

“In the consultations of April 2021, the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA), principal and parent associations, along with denominational boards agreed that a reasonable alternative to the June 10th date for SEA was July 1st, six weeks from today, which, based on the current regulations, should allow the elapse of enough time for the rate of infections and active cases to be reduced to a level deemed reasonably safe for the conduct of the examination,” she added.

The Minister added that within six weeks, it is expected that the second phase of the vaccination programme would be well underway and the level of vaccinations among the population should be much higher.

She said teachers who are, and will be, in closest or repeated physical contact with students have been targeted as a priority group, and the Ministry of Health will accommodate this subset of teachers for priority vaccination. Further discussions will be held with TTUTA on this issue.

Gadsby-Dolly stressed that while the examinations are important, and all preparations are being made for their safe conduct, they are not more important than the health of the population.

“The latter will not be sacrificed for the sake of the former,” she said.

She added that her ministry continues to collaborate closely with the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC), the Ministry of Health and other public sector agencies, to ensure the safety and protection of all concerned.

The Education Minister said CXC was sent correspondence on April 23, in light of the rapid uptick in COVID-19 positive cases, to alert them to a possible date shift. The schedule was also, at that time, reworked to accommodate that possibility.

“The Ministry of Education is therefore on track with all preparations, and the results of the SEA are expected to be released in the second week of September to facilitate the placement of students in secondary schools by the third week of September,” Gadsby-Dolly said. (CMC)