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SEA My Troubles

IN THE LAST month, Trinidad divided itself into two camps, each clamouring for either of two gymnasts contesting one Olympics spot, each of whose careers might be devastated if the other went to Rio, and nobody could stop talking about it – but, every year, around this time, thousands of small children have their lives shattered in a single morning, that of the Secondary Assessment Exam – and no one says, “Boo!” Last Thursday, a few thousand kids won places at a “prestige” school and a chance of a real career, but everyone else got sent – or sentenced – to a five-year holding cell until they graduate to either McDonalds small fry guy or prison big bad John; for the bulk of our secondary schools, the uniform might as well be orange overalls.

In sympathy with the little tykes who won’t even get an adolescence after results come out, but move straight to washing cars or pushing drugs, I begin last year’s actual SEA paper today (though, two years from age 60, mine is more of an SIA: Senility Imminent Assessment). Next Friday, I’ll try “Language Arts” and finish with the essay the following Friday. These are real questions from last year’s SEA paper.

Mathematics. 75 minutes. Section I.

Q1. 7469 - 2361? Wow. Kids have grown so thick now, there isn’t even a trick first question to ease them into revealing their ignorance; whoever can’t do simple sums like this is heading straight for Barataria Mixed Martial Arts Secondary. Q2. Write in figures: two hundred and five thousand and three? Isn’t it depressing to think that the majority of our children will treat the “ands” as disjunctive rather than conjunctive and write three separate answers: 200; 5,000; and 3? And feel they aced that one! Q5. Write the numbers in descending order: 5173, 5713, 5317? Are there kids stupid enough to be unable to answer this question? If so, how would they all go on to become a Trinidadian Minister of Finance? Q12. Chad buys a bag of oranges for $9.50. How much change should he get from a $20 bill? More important is what fine Chad will pay for receiving stolen goods; $9.50 per bag is prima facie evidence of praedial larceny!

Q14. Calculate the VAT on a laptop advertised at $4,500 plus 15 per cent VAT? Better still, calculate if you were better off when the People’s Partnership gave children free laptops but also gave lawyers free sheet with their requisitions of fees; the answer is always “Anand Ramlogan” and you never have to work it out for yourself. Q18. Tyson is facing West and makes three one-quarter turns clockwise; in which direction will Tyson now be facing? Is this a “Language Arts” trick question? If not, why is “West” capitalised? Unless Tyson is actually in what we call, “the West”; in which case, if he turns, turns and turns again, he will be in the Gulf of Paria; or in the Remand Yard of POS Gaol for stealing the white-people oranges.

Section II. Q 21. 2 7/8 + 4 1/3 = ? Tell them examiners this is an analogue question and we Trini primary schoolchildren gone digital now. Come back with 2 point-something plus 4 point-something and we will do that one! And we will burn tyres in the road if you don’t move fast. Q 22. Maria has 413 stamps. Her brother has 49 stamps fewer. How many stamps do they have altogether? What wrong with them firetrucking backward children? Why they not using email? Look, just send all of them to Arima Incomprehensive and done the talk! Q25. Jerry has 40 stickers that are either red, yellow or blue. There are 24 red ones and equal numbers of blue and yellow. Calculate the percentage of yellow stickers? Allowing the SEA exam setters a probably undeserved leeway in relating “either/or” to three choices, the answer is, “Yellow is UNC, red is PNM, so blue must be for the corpse of COP”. Q 32. Mrs Chin got a $6000 credit union loan. She took three years to repay it at 5 per cent simple interest per annum. Calculate the total Mrs Chin repaid? At those rates, and that amortization period, Mrs Chin should have borrowed a million; in the same way a Trini Finance Minister would cash in instruments from a financial institution about to fail.

Section III.

Q 43. Akil saved $50 each week. How many weeks did it take to buy a $500 pair of roller skates? Calculate the percentage of his discount if he paid $400. Akil paid $400 using five $1 bills and at least one each of $5, 10, 20, 50 and $100 bills what were the LEAST number of bills he used? This reminds me of the joke about why God made Gentiles: because somebody has to pay retail. Akil made a killing on them roller skates. Any child who can work this question out should get a full scholarship to MIT; this kind of crap is exactly why we came up with credit cards. Q 46. Zippy Party Rentals rented 113 chairs on Monday, 367 on Tuesday, 258 on Wednesday, 969 on Thursday and 1083 on Friday. On Monday, 46 chairs were returned; on Wednesday, 96 and on Friday 62. On which day was the rental CLOSEST to 1,000? This is an extremely complicated way of asking children to subtract 62 from 1083 and see if it’s closer to 1,000 than 969. I can do that in my head. Wrong, probably. That’s enough maths. Next week we do language arts with little finesse.

BC Pires is asking who examines the examiners. Email your hypercorrections to him at bc@winetonline.com

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