Archbishop Joseph Harris has said the Ministry of Education should “do away” with the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) and suggested that every school should do an evaluation of children for secondary schools. He described the system as “violence to children”. His comments were made July 12 in the Catholic Media Services Ltd (CAMSEL) Ask the Archbishop live chat on Facebook.
Archbishop Harris said the “best solution” for the local system has to be found because children were put under stress and their parents “more stress” to get into a school of choice.
He said there were children who performed well during the academic year but got nervous during the exam and “don’t do as well”. “Sooner or later” he felt that there may have to be geographical zoning of children because it was doing harm for 11 and 12-year-olds to be rising at 4 a.m. to get to school in Port of Spain because their parents worked in the city.
“When you see the traffic on the highway, in places like [Sangre] ‘Grande and Arima you have to leave [home] 5.30 a.m., 6 a.m.” He continued, “Children don’t have holidays anymore”. He recalled that when he passed the Exhibition exam he spent his entire vacation with family on holiday. There was “no such things as private lessons and this and that”.
Although there is emphasis on academics in the Caribbean, Archbishop Harris said, “We do violence to children. Violence is not only slapping them up. Violence is taking away from them the things they need as children”. He described the pressure on children preparing for exams as “awful”.
On the question of something being done at Catholic schools, Archbishop Harris said for this to happen the Concordat has to be changed. “We should be lobbying,” he commented. Although he had no problem putting this on his agenda, as he is now retired whether this is pursued will be for his successor –“the man coming after”.
Asked about the pupils with learning disabilities scoring less than 30 per cent in SEA, he said the whole system was “crazy”. He questioned if they were ready for the demands of the increased curriculum at secondary school. “We force them into secondary school to do what? To fail? We have not started looking yet at learning styles and aptitudes. We put everybody in this grammar-school education and a lot of people are not ready. So we produce failures and we want to know why there is crime.”