It is an un­com­fort­able re­al­i­ty that the con­cept of fair­ness and equal­i­ty can be trans­ac­tion­al.

The bat­tle lines have been drawn be­tween the “haves” and the “have nots.” Easy an­swers pre­vail when we should be prompt­ed to have a wider con­ver­sa­tion. A grand de­cep­tion lies at the heart of the de­cep­tion. The de­lib­er­ate use of red tape and bu­reau­cra­cy to cov­er-up in­ten­tion­al and cal­lous in­jus­tice and un­fair­ness. It is an un­com­fort­able re­al­i­ty that the con­cept of fair­ness and equal­i­ty can be trans­ac­tion­al.

In re­cent weeks, I have been dis­cussing the im­pact of the Sec­ondary En­trance As­sess­ment (SEA) ex­am­i­na­tion on sport in T&T. There are two sides to a coin and as such a strong ar­gu­ment can be made for the re­ten­tion of the SEA in its cur­rent in­car­na­tion. Some will ar­gue that the SEA is a mer­i­toc­ra­cy but is it? Is the SEA a mer­i­toc­ra­cy?

Scant at­ten­tion is paid to the neg­a­tive im­pact of SEA on sports. Par­ents, with few ex­cep­tions, sac­ri­fice phys­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ty/sports in an ef­fort to en­sure a cov­et­ed first choice place­ment (in the main the par­ents’ first choice, not the child’s).

For some tal­ent­ed child with po­ten­tial in sport, the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem is not sport friend­ly. It is an up­hill bat­tle and from ear­ly they learn it is ei­ther or, as a sport takes away valu­able time from SEA prepa­ra­tion. Af­ter school, SEA pri­vate lessons cur­tail the free time for ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties.

There are sec­ondary schools that fail to ad­e­quate­ly em­brace a cul­ture of phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion and for stu­dents pass­ing for such a school, the end re­sult is that par­tic­i­pat­ing in sport at a high lev­el is no longer an op­tion.

In a re­cent news­pa­per ar­ti­cle, Uni­ver­si­ty of the West In­dies (UWI) pro­fes­sor Jerome De Lisle cau­tioned about the SEA cre­at­ing false neg­a­tives that em­anate from an elit­ist world view.

The SEA is a tool and like all tools, it can be used for good but it can al­so be mis­used.

By way of ex­am­ple - What about the stu­dent who was giv­en a low­er mark - the par­ents query the mark. The Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion in­ves­ti­gates and the mark is re­vised up­ward in first choice range but in a cru­el twist of fate, the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion in­forms the par­ents that it is too late to place the stu­dent in his/her first choice.

The so­lu­tion: wait for Form Two; no suc­cess; and no op­por­tu­ni­ty to get a hear­ing. The im­pact? A dis­il­lu­sioned 12-year-old los­es in­ter­est in sport­ing ac­tiv­i­ty. The anger and re­sent­ment in­ter­nalised to ap­pear as at-risk be­hav­iour.

It is easy to be con­de­scend­ing and say that is life and it is good for the na­tion’s chil­dren to learn the re­al­i­ty of life from the SEA but the neg­a­tive im­pact on a child’s life is not a triv­ial mat­ter.

The race for SEA first may well be a race to the bot­tom.