Common Entrance to be stopped in 2003
Stabroek News
December 20, 2001

Come 2003, ten, 11 and 12 year olds will be free of the pressures of studying and extra lessons to gain high marks at the Secondary Schools Entrance Examinations (SSEE/Common Entrance) in order to win places in the country's top secondary schools.

In keeping with its previously stated policy, the Ministry of Education has announced its intention of abolishing the SSEE and replacing it with three examinations at various stages in the primary level. The three exams proposed will be written at Level Two (Prep B), Level Four (Primary Two) and Level Six (Primary Four).

Responding to a question on the GTV/GINA sponsored `Answers' programme first aired on Sunday afternoon, Education Minister, Dr Henry Jeffrey, said that the current placement system based on performance would still remain, but the SSEE, written at Level Six, will be replaced.

Giving reasons behind the decision to abolish SSEE, Jeffrey said that many persons were of the view that the exam was responsible for the problems of literacy and numeracy. He said that if the examinations focusing on numeracy and literacy started at Level Two and continued through to Level Four, teachers would be forced to continuously work with students to achieve and maintain high levels of performance.

The three exams, he said, would be placement examinations as children would not automatically be sent to secondary schools in their home areas. He opined that it would take parents a while before they agreed to place their children in schools simply because of proximity to their homes. But he said that the ministry would be improving the system at the various levels, at the same time. "We are not going to get there in ten years," he said but noted that outstanding examination results in recent years had been spread throughout the country and not confined to the traditional "top schools" in the city.

Jeffrey said that the timetable for ensuring that all students of secondary type schools would be eligible to write the Caribbean Examinations Council examinations had to be brought forward because the Secondary Schools Proficiency Examinations (SSPE) Parts One and Two, which were written at the community high schools and primary tops, were abolished last year and there was no alternative examination in place.

All secondary type schools being able to write the CXC examinations, he said, did not mean the ministry had all the resources "to have in place what we might define as proper secondary education. We'll work to achieve that. We'll try to upgrade teachers."

He said that within the next two to three years about 30% of the teachers in the community high schools and primary tops would be trained to try to grapple with the curriculum. In the following two years another 30% would be trained. But he admitted that even that would not be sufficient.

Asked whether the traditional sixth form schools would be abolished, Jeffrey said no, but that the ministry would be looking at establishing sixth form consortia at schools which might be strong at a particular subject or subjects based on the availability of facilities and resources. In the consortia, he said, schools would specialise in certain subjects and students preparing for the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations (CAPE) and the General Certificate of Education (GCE) Advanced Level Examinations would attend classes at that school, even though he/she might be enrolled at another institution. (Miranda La Rose)