The Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) exam has been postponed from June 10 to July 1, 2021.
In announcing the change in date during yesterday’s post-Cabinet media briefing at the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s—Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly confirmed the anticipated delay had, “become necessary due to the trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing challenges posed by the health regulations at this time.”
Prior to the announcement yesterday, the Ministry of Education (MOE) wrote to the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) on April 23, to alert them as to a possible date shift following Trinidad and Tobago’s uptick in daily COVID-19 positive cases.
She explained that given the record numbers this past week, “It is with great regret that we have to push it back. That was not the intention, we did not want to push it back but this is where we are. These are the cards that we have been dealt and we have to play them that way.”
And working with the new date of July 1 for the exam to be administered, Gadsby-Dolly said the results for the SEA ought to be released by the second week in September to facilitate the placement of students into secondary schools by the following week.
Following a stakeholder meeting on April 22 during which safety concerns of face-to-face interactions were raised—given the numbers of new infections being recorded daily which stood then at 81—Gadsby-Dolly said a decision was taken to leave the exam as scheduled for June 10 in deference to the students who had been working diligently to prepare despite the challenges of the past 14 months.
A review on April 28 showed new infections per day had ballooned from 81 to 223; with an even more rapid increase in the viral spread in recent days—the Minister is hoping the robust measures that have been put in place since May 15 will yield positive results in the coming weeks.
She assured the MOE’s priority is to ensure the safety and health of both teachers and students.
“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 and the latter will not be sacrificed for the sake of the former,” the Minister said.
Referring to stakeholder feedback during consultations in April which had offered up an alternative date of July 1, Gadsby-Dolly is hopeful the six-week postponement would be 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.”
Gadsby-Dolly said the vaccination of educators would now be a priority focus for the Ministry of Health (MOH), “Teachers who are and will be in closest or repeated physical contact with students have been targeted as a priority group, and the MOH will accommodate this sub-set of teachers for priority vaccination.”
CXC considers postponement
of CSEC/CAPE exams
Responding to queries regarding the administration of the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) and the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Exam (CAPE) which are due to get started by June 1, Gadsby-Dolly said CXC had written to various island territories earlier this week expressing “their views on possible postponement and some other recommendations that have been forwarded, notably from the Caribbean Union of Teachers (CUT) and the different Member States of Caricom.”
The Caribbean Union of Teachers (CUT) is a federation of teaching trade unions in the Caribbean.
Admitting this country’s position had been signalled to CXC “based on our circumstances at this time,” the Minister said, “We would be in support of a postponement, not more than three weeks.”
She said there were issues relating to students in the St Vincent and the Grenadines where the eruption of the La Soufriere volcano had interrupted schooling across the island, which required a closer look at the exam set up.
Gadsby-Dolly said, “All of the Members States have been asked to submit their views by today (yesterday), based on the recommendations of CXC and T&T would have done so today (yesterday).”
Meanwhile, following discussions with local officials as to how language orals would be conducted, she said it can be done virtually using technology to assure the safety and health of both the teacher and student so they will not be required to be in the same space.
SEA, CXC deferrals requested
The Minister also revealed yesterday that her Ministry has so far received 402 requests for deferrals from CXC candidates.
She explained this comprised of 201 from public secondary schools; 182 private candidates; and 26 from private registered schools.
Regarding the SEA exam, Minister Gadsby-Dolly said of the 19,829 students registered to write the exam, 178 deferral requests had been received from 88 primary schools.
Indicating the option of deferral was really meant to offer the most vulnerable SEA students who need it, the minister said it would have to be recommended by the school principal.
Regarding the option of deferral to secondary school students, Gadsby-Dolly said in this case it is not the principal who makes the determination on if they can defer, but rather CXC.
However, principals must indicate if the students can be accommodated in the next year’s class and based on logistics, space, and the student’s performance, a decision will be made.
For students who are deferring and cannot or do not want to return to the school, she said measures are being put in place to set up a virtual learning school within the MOE.