Cassam Tupsy, Ex officer in charge of SSS Vocational
It is an undeniable fact that in the wake of the CPE exams much attention was given to those who succeeded. However, it is to be noted that about 30% failures were recorded every year and evidently, they were the left outs of the infernal system of the CPE exams. They were thrust in vocational schools with different names attributed to them while the method of learning had not undergone any changes. Several strategies were devised by different ministers of education in order to make these students function as literate beings but still the appropriate methods seemed to be far from being efficient.
In the eighties, community schools were set up to accommodate the CPE drop outs, with classes running in the evening. When these community schools failed to give the expected results, students were admitted to vocational schools where both theoretical and practical works were carried out. After transiting in vocational schools, they were then sent to the BSS [Basic Secondary Schools]. Something went wrong again with the system and when Kadress Pillay, the then minister of education, assumed office, he wanted all the left outs who were below eighteen years old, to join the SSSV [State Secondary School Vocational]. Older students were in Form One, which made it very hard to handle a class. Afterwards, it seemed that the Pre-Vocational schools were their final destination, with them being admitted to mainstream schools, following a philosophy of indiscrimination, for, prior to the Pre Voc: the CPE drop outs had separate vocational schools.
When it comes to the question of learning one has to rack one’s brain whether a conducive atmosphere to learning was created. Anyhow, some assessments were carried out at random and the final exams would not give the expected results. Language posed a real problem for them. On the other hand, the failure cycle was another discouraging factor in the process of learning. Frustration, anger, nervousness and restlessness are clear factors. Actually, very few students could learn properly, hardly twenty-five percent of them and the cause resides in the fact that they had succeeded in two or three subjects at the CPE exams.
With the implementation of the nine-year schooling the name Pre-voc was changed to adopt a new one: The Extended Stream. On top of it students are called upon to sit for the National Exams, with the pretext that an additional year is given to them to complete their syllabus. Pedagogues and advisors to the minister must face the reality by putting themselves in the shoes of these students. Even after spending three years at the Prevoc, it is still difficult for some students to write their names and addresses properly. However, many illiterate students happened to pass their Year 3 examinations by betting on chances, that is by ticking true or false questions haphazardly and by completing matching exercises.
Simple trade-oriented texts full of illustrations concerning different trades can pave the way for these students to learn vocational subjects. In the absence of practical works, the broadcast strategy can facilitate learning through sharp observation. Text books should be related to films so that learning underpinned by pictures can take place. Let’s take the example of a class on waiter service, the best method of brain storming will be to project a film on waiter and restaurant service just to give a preview of the lesson.
These students are really fed up with the academic stream. The mainstream classes are not their cup of tea, therefore let us not inflict that upon them. What is in a name? The real substance is found in the learner, we have just to guide him/her accordingly.