The Government has allocated TT$7.45 billion to the education sector, the largest sum in the 2023 Budget read by Finance Minister Colm Imbert today, Monday, September 26 in the House of Representatives. The theme was Tenacity and Stability in the Face of Global Challenges.
Provision of $50 million is earmarked for a remedial programme for pupils whose education was affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
More than 9,000 children scored less than 50 per cent in the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) 2022. Imbert said in his Budget statement, “There was a reduction in the pupils who scored above 50 per cent in 2022 when compared with previous years. In 2022, the percentage was 37.1 per cent; in 2021, the percentage was 52.5 per cent, and in 2020, 63 per cent.” The Ministry of Education conducted a remedial instruction programme July 18-August 12 during the vacation period; however, it was poorly attended.
He listed measures to improve performance.
· After two years in secondary school and being enrolled in Form Two, students will be required to sit the Lower Secondary Proficiency Examination and gain certification to ensure that they have basic numeracy and literacy skills to continue their education.
· 7,000 laptops have been given to teachers and means-tested students.
· This brought the number of devices distributed 2018 – 2022 to 63,410.
Chief Executive Officer of the Catholic Education Board of Management (CEBM) and Head of the Association of Denominational Boards of Education (ADBE) Sharon Mangroo stated although it was not much, it was reassuring there is money set aside specifically for the students negatively affected by Covid who were away from school and “in some cases [away] from classes because they could not get on to online classes”. She looked forward to the details of the allocation and the programme to be developed.
Mangroo said the CEBM and ADBE look forward to working with the Ministry of Education as one of the major stakeholders and contributing to the development of the remedial programme. They especially hoped for provision of resources for children with special needs. “Not only physical needs that are easily recognised, but those children who have social and emotional issues that may have been exacerbated by the isolation of being at home, and ensuring that there are teachers in the classroom who are properly trained and able to provide for the learning needs of those children.”
Mangroo agreed with the provision of additional GATE (Government Assistance for Tuition Expenses) funding for students pursuing Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) programmes to advance their training to attain advanced diplomas or degrees.
“For a long time, we have been talking about recognising the importance of TVET in the country. It has been a sort of second-class citizen…We weren’t rewarding people adequately and so on for it; there is that recognition given,” Mangroo said.
She said GATE assisted more persons with accessing tertiary education thereby contributing to development of the country. “Any assistance that can be provided to have a larger number of students involved in tertiary education is welcomed”.