MoE, Boards discuss admissions
A committee comprising representatives of denominational boards and Ministry of Education officials will collaborate to develop an application form or forms for admission of pupils into primary schools.
This development follows a meeting of boards and ministry personnel led by Education Minister Anthony Garcia on Tuesday at the ministry’s head office, St Vincent Street, Port of Spain to discuss concerns with a standardised form which schools were directed to use.
A Circular Memorandum issued by the office of the Chief Education Officer dated January 10, ‘Application for Admission into Public Primary Schools’ instructed that registration be halted until the standardisation process was complete.
It stated: “Standardised application forms for admission of First Year are available at the school and at respective Education District offices during NORMAL working hours from February to March. All completed application forms must be submitted at the school for which the application has been made by 5th of April. The admission list should be posted on the Notice Board at the school and parents informed by 15th May each year. Principals must notify parents who are unsuccessful in securing a place for their children giving reason(s) for non-acceptance. There must be no interview process and/or examination as criteria for admittance to a primary school.”
The Catholic Education Board of Management (CEBM) had instructed Catholic primary school principals not to accept or use the ministry’s form. Principals were advised the matter was being addressed by the archdiocese and any queries should be referred to the CEBM. Archbishop Jason Gordon wrote to the minister.
A January 18 media release from the ministry said the standardised registration process for primary schools was, “to ensure equal access to registration at all schools”. Forms were to be available at the schools, at the District Offices of the Ministry of Education and online via the Ministry’s website, moe.gov.tt. However, last Monday, the ministry issued another release announcing that Minister Garcia had directed the circular be withdrawn until further notice.
Interviewed after Tuesday’s meeting, CEBM Chairman Dr Roland Baptiste told Catholic News, “What was good about that meeting was one of the issues we had with the form was that there was nothing to say about the religion of the child and we thought that was offensive. The policy of the government, as stated, is that should be included. That is a very important thing.”
He said a committee would be established with representatives of the denominational boards and ministry to develop a “proper form”. Baptiste said one of the major concerns for the minister was parents lining up to get forms and principals telling them to come on particular days.
“We gave the assurance that at no Catholic school any principal will say come on a particular day…we are going to find a way for people to get forms” besides at the school. “We don’t want that kind of problem to arise,” Baptiste said. While there were moments when the discussion “went back and forth and got a little heated”, he described the meeting as successful.
Chair of the Association of Denominational Boards of Education and CEO of the CEBM Sharon Mangroo said the committee will be chaired by the Ag Chief Education Officer, John Roopchand. She added, “We’ve asked whenever we have a meeting for the presence of the planning division. We will probably be meeting in the second week in February.” The committee will work “on the whole application process”.
Members will discuss “the Ministry of Education having one form for the government schools and the assisted schools having either one form for each of the various denominations or a variety of forms”.
The meeting clarified that the issuing of the form could not be viewed simply as an “administrative function” of the ministry. “In the meeting we had legal people who were able to point out to the legal person in the ministry where that stance is not correct…we are guaranteed the right by the Concordat to administer our schools,” Mangroo said.
In an audio statement sent to media, Minister Garcia said, “We have pledged to work together in the interest of education; we must understand we have a Concordat which this ministry and this government intends to hold fast to and the tenets of the Concordat will always be observed by this government.”