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Literacy levels on the rise in T&T

IN three years, the literacy performance of Trinidad and Tobago’s pupils should be at a level to compete with pupils in developed countries, said Education Ministry Chief Education Officer Harrilal Seecharan. He was speaking on Friday at a meeting of the Joint Select Committee (JSC) and Education Ministry officials at Tower D, International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain. JSC member Professor Harold Ramkissoon compared the academic performance of this country’s pupils to pupils internationally. He noted there was an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) study in 2009 which T&T participated in called Programme for International Student Assessment (PFISA), where 15-year-olds are tested in reading, mathematics and sciences. He recalled Trinidad and Tobago ranked 54 out of 74 countries and the countries at the top included Singapore and Finland. Seecharan reported that in 2003 and 2004 a decision was made by the Ministry for international benchmarking and this country participated in two international studies­___PFISA in 2009 and the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), conducted by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement, in 2006 and 2011. He reported the country did not participate in the PFISA in 2012­­­___it is held triennially, but, has rejoined and will participate in 2015. He noted that from the studies, reading had been identified as an issue in this country, especially at the primary school level. He reported in the 2011 PIRLS study the reading literacy of standard three children the average score increased by 31 points, “which I think is the highest change of any country across the world”. Seecharan said in 2006, T&T had 36 per cent of pupils not meeting the benchmark and in 2011 that decreased to 22 per cent, with the only significant intervention in that time being the national test. “So that is a good indication for us in terms that we are moving in the right direction.” He said this country is still below the PIRLS international mean of 500. He predicted, however, that with the present initiatives in literacy and numeracy the level should increase. “I think the projection is by the time we get around to the next study in 2016 Trinidad and Tobago should be ranking above the international mean and, in fact, start competing with the developed countries in terms of reading literacy.” Seecharan noted that regionally, with regard to pupil performance in Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations (CAPE) and Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC), Trinidad and Tobago currently topped the region. He added that within Latin America and the Caribbean, T&T was competing with Uruguay, Mexico and Chile. Seecharan pointed out, however, that Latin America and the Caribbean’s academic performance was the lowest of all regions internationally. He noted, therefore, that this country still had “quite a way to go” in academic improvement. “By any standards, I don’t think we are doing very badly,” he added.

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