Archives For education

the boychick begins his week of standardised testing that is TCAP today. it`s funny i had recently arrived when he was doing it last year and the girls had their own batch of equivalency examinations.

in Trinidad at the end of elementary school system you take an examination that determines your choice of high school education based on how well you do. in my days it was called the Common Entrance exam and the higher your total score the better your chances of attending a prestigious parochial high school. these days it`s called the SEA and the intensity and price of failure is even greater. my elder daughter took it last year and went to the school of her choice and mine, my younger daughter took it about six weeks ago and we`re fairly confident that she`s heading to the same school. this ends their standardised testing on a national level for at least five years until it`s time for  their O` Level exams.

the boychick, on the other handm is stuck in this testing rut annually. last year i very nearly pitched a fit when his then teacher marked an essay he work diligently on poorly based on his grammar. according to her and last year`s TCAPs the boychick has problems with sentence structure. which seems kind of odd, see the volume of reading he does, the fact that his mother has a Masters in English and i`m a grammar nazi. in fact it`s not that he has a problem, but they have an issue with the fact that he can construct complex sentences at this grade level. the boychick does not write staccato sentences. they want him to write like this. he was punished for not writing like this.

the joys of standardised testing, if you don`t fit in the box, we`ll force fit you. what`s funny is that at some point someone asked the boychick if he found the TCAPs difficult and he replied, “it can`t be difficult they`re not supposed to leave anyone behind.” and that pretty much sums it up, in order to make sure no one gets left behind they`re hampering the rest of the children.

not all children progress at the same rate, granted, but when you the pace you set is for the slowest child the rest of the children who get what they`re supposed to be working on are going to get bored and distracted while they wait and that`s not going to help them learn anything either.

what can you teach me?

February 22, 2005 — Leave a comment

i`m realising that until i have a piece of paper that says i can colour within the lines, i`m going to be stuck within my current salary range. doesn`t matter i have 13 years experience in my field and i could probably teach some of the course work, i have to go back to school and get a degree so i can even begin to get paid what i`m worth.

i did one year of university, then i dropped out, because it bored me and at the end of the day it was my money i was spending. now here i am 14 years later and one of the only wise decisions i made in those halcyon days is biting me in my ass.

the concept of starting as an undergraduate just angers me. there is a dedicated art and design school here and they don`t even accept CLEP credits. and that`s another problem, there is no CLEP exam that would enable me to skip the fundamentals of design. of course there is another option; Central St. Martin`s in London offers an MFA programme with a minimum entry requirement of three years design experience, a portfolio they deem worthwhile and £20,000 or US$35K a year. not happening right now, but i can`t dream can`t i?

if i could find that kind of money, i would work my ass for the year and a semester that it takes to complete the programme, especially in the typography pathway.

i think that was the motto of my high school education. in Trinidad we follow the English school system, that is seven years of primary or elementary education, then an entrance exam to get attempt to get into the high school of your choice. there is automatic placement into government run high schools depending on your scores but the parochial schools are believed to have a better quality of education.

apparently i was a brilliant primary school student, everyone expected the world of me, so they pushed me. they streamed me through my last two years of school to get in line for taking the exam; back then it was called Common Entrance, now it`s call the Secondary Evaluation Assessment or some such tripe. i sat the exam a year earlier than i was supposed to and aced it; scored in the top 97% of students in the country and was on my way to St. Mary`s College, one of the top schools in the country. St. Mary`s College or CIC as it was called, is a catholic boys high school.

i think i started resting on my laurel at the orientation session. it`s not to tell a roomful of 11 – 13 year old boys that they are the best and the brightest in the country, whatever semblance of humility there was in those little ego maniacs goes right out the window. or maybe that was just me.

i spent the mandatory five years on cruise control, getting by on natural intelligence. my ego got the better of me at the end of my third year; when you chose the subjects that you want to do for the rest of your school career; i dropped computer science, because i didn`t think they could teach me anything i didn`t already know, i was an idiot.

at the end of the five year stint, there is an series of exams, like the ordinary wizarding level exams in Harry Potter. my subjects of choice were French, Spanish, Caribbean History, Geography, English Literature and the mandatory English Language and Math. i just managed to scrape passing grades for everything except Spanish which i failed spectacularly and the English subjects which i passed as spectacularly as i had failed Spanish.

there was a point to this post somewhere but it`s seemed to have escaped me, i may come back and clean it up later.

i got an interesting compliment this weekend, someone was surprised how much i know about the US, history, politics, geography. i pointed out that it was part of my education. one of the benefits of growing up in the caribbean is the post colonial english public school model.

this weekend i met a young man who is graduating high school this friday and had no idea who typhoid mary is, it made me wonder what`s being taught to children, at present.

when i was at school, yes there was the carrot about studying hard and getting a good job, but there was also the opportunity to learn a little of everything, you were encouraged to explore and experience. education wasn`t about giving students enough information to pass an examination.

it seems to me that education no longer exist to help children experience knowledge but to mould them into non-thinking conformists. it`s all goal oriented and providing them with only the tools needed to reach that goal, there is no room for exploration and that is saddening.

i`ve always loved to read and anything that struck my fancy, even now, i researched and read and learned. this used to be the point of education, i`m glad that i got to benefit from an education system that up until recently propagated this belief.

i could point fingers everywhere; television, the internet, video games, but i think the onus falls on parents to lead by example. even though my children are in the midst of a failing system their own passions for learning and reading haven`t been quenched. they enjoy reading and discovery, because it`s what is around them.

i never finished university but that by no stretch means i`m unintelligent. i am well read and informed, which a large number of times is far better than a large number of people who spent four years and vast sums of money and can only regurgitate what was given to them.