Overcoming this catastrophe | Editorial

Parents are likely to face a lot of criticism following the statement by the President of the National Parent-Teacher Association (NPTA) who basically blames them for low student participation in the vacation review program (VRP) of the Ministry of Education.

The target group of students badly needed these classes since they were among the 9,000 students placed in secondary schools despite scoring less than 30% on the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) exam for that year. It became clear that this remedial program was in trouble when only 30% of students applied and, as we now know, only 1,900 or 21% showed up.

NPTA President Kevin David attributed the low turnout “disaster” to some parents being “ashamed to allow their children to come and be identified with the 30 percent.”

It is truly sad that parents put their own feelings of embarrassment above their children’s education, but blaming them will do nothing to address the underlying issue of stigma associated with SEA performance. Equally important, blaming parents will not help the Department of Education avoid the mistakes it made in its promotion of the vacation review program.

We’d hazard a guess that parental embarrassment wasn’t the only factor. More likely, it was the students themselves who refused to attend. After all, these 11- and 12-year-olds had been celebrating “passing” ASE, only to find they had scored less than 30% and were being offered revision classes to prepare for school. secondary. Indeed, they had failed and their failure was publicly broadcast. Children would also have understood that attending review classes would identify them within their communities and among their peers as “less than 30%,” resulting in the humiliation associated with failing EAS.

The ministry must accept some responsibility for this fiasco through its callous promotion of the review program.

The policy decision to “pass” 9,000 children with test scores below 30% is questionable, although it can be argued that the alternative of retaining so many children in primary school would significantly disrupt primary and secondary education systems.

After deciding to transfer the 9,000 students to secondary school, the ministry made the right decision to improve the students’ abilities to help them cope with the secondary school curriculum.

Where it went awry was by casting the target group as students who had gotten a pass but really failed, and calling the program “review” as opposed to, say, prep. The ministry appeared to ignore the highly damaging stigma of EAS that it had previously said it intended to combat.

With the failure of the VRP, the department now has the greatest challenge of resolving the issue while the mandate is ongoing. With the future of students at stake, we can only hope that everyone, including schools, parents and students, will cooperate to make this work. These children need champions to motivate them to rise to the challenge and stay in school.