Monday, April 15, 2024

Screaming test indeed


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Many years ago, lots of supposedly undereducated adults called the Common Entrance Examination “The Screaming Test”. It was widely felt that they had not properly understood the exam’s informal name as “The Screening Test”.
But perhaps those long-ago folks should have been given more credit, because the test reportedly provoked in numerous children a clamour of wails, shrieks and squeals before, during and after the exam.
It seems those folks were prescient, too, as this year’s results and their sidekick allocations have given rise to lots of screaming – mostly from parents now.
The anguished outbursts have come in the wake of primary schoolchildren performing better in the end of primary school national assessment test – a cause for national celebration, one would think. But no!
So ever since the results of this year’s Common Entrance Examination were released early last month, Minister of Education Ronald Jones has had to repeatedly draw on resources of logic, knowledge of the school system and, we dare say, patience to deal with howls of dissatisfaction from parents who are apparently grieving because their little Johnny or Jenny can’t get to go to Harrison College or Queen’s College or Combermere or The St Michael School.
The minister has tried valiantly to assuage the ire of his national constituents. He has explained what would be obvious to every other adult on the planet whose child did not get, say, 229A or some other offended (or is it offending?) score: schools are not elastic. And, in truth, the clamour now seems to have died down.
But has it disappeared from the hearts?  Dare we think that the screaming has forever gone away?
We would be unwise to think so.
For, after all, if a public system is latched to hierarchical notions, might elitist desires not mount an incursion into your very soul?
We dare to wonder aloud: do some people secretly hope that other people’s children will do less well in the exam than theirs so that their little one can “get into” that “special school”? Most people would not be caught dead voicing such a wish.  But what does today’s screaming say?
Has it not shown up a kink in our souls?
And this, in the face of the fact that every secondary school in our education system is jampacked with graduate teachers, who undertake the same teacher training – and not different courses for teachers at different schools.
So the teacher at Harrison College is not inherently superior to the teacher at St George Secondary.
The difference is that the HC educator gets to teach all high-end attainers, while the teacher at St George . . . .
And for a long season, the system – with the primary schools being the stage – has played out that script.
But what if, like Joel Klein, chancellor of the education system in New York City from 2002 to late last year, those in charge of education here passionately focused on student success in primary schools?
What if, instead of zeroing in on the three children from John Brown Primary School who “passed for” Harrison College, we seriously held each primary school responsible for more than labelling and sorting, with the Devil apparently taking the hindmost? What if we so centred our interest on removing the hindmost that the Devil has the idle hands, as “intolerable” numbers of primary schoolchildren ace the exam?
Would we still scream?
This year’s screaming raises many questions – about the system and about us too. Perhaps the results of this year’s Common Entrance Exam have tested our hearts.
Screaming test indeed.

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