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#BTColumn – A secondary school entry test a must

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the creator(s) don’t represent the official position of Barbados TODAY.

by Lew Bovell

The test for the transition from primary school to secondary school in Barbados, a.k.a. the Common Entrance Exam, was introduced years ago to determine a good and objective system through which all our youngsters could possibly be assessed and aspire to attend any secondary school of their selection.

Barbados is a society during which many favours are granted to individuals based on but not limited to, their family background, association, access and familiarity with certain individuals, their socio-economic background/position, popularity, etc.

As a consequence of this ‘kisses granted for favours’ environment, the secondary school transition test stays the fairest approach to measurement, with respect to transfers to our secondary school system, having replaced a system that was predominantly favourable to privileged children.

To many individuals, the Common Entrance Exam appears to be and is promoted because the villain that’s the catalyst for all of the ills of Barbados’ modern society, during which there may be now a diminution of established standards, values and the role of excellence.

The blame gamers conveniently forget that in our system, our youngsters have a minimum of seven years of public education prior to the Common Entrance Exam. Specifically, their participation in Nursery school, Infants A, Infants B, then on to Classes 1 through to Class 4.

That’s good enough time for an efficient public education system to evaluate these kids, by way of their current learning abilities, potential capabilities, non-school-related challenges and the impact of their social environment at home, etc. It actually gives teachers, the Ministry of Education and relations significant time to deal with any issues which can be affecting or would potentially impact a toddler’s ability to learn.

As well as, throughout the Ministry of Education, there stays the structure to reactivate the Criterion Reference Test and its related learning aptitude assessments, that were previously conducted by our primary schools, well before our youngsters were on the verge of the Common Entrance Exam and positively as much as Class three.

Some children will naturally learn at a slower pace and subsequently for the system to proceed to make it mandatory that annually over 90 per cent of those class 4 students undertake an exam at eleven-plus is beyond comprehension.

Definitely, this exam might be undertaken from an age range of 11 (11) to thirteen (13 ), with provisions made for taking this transition test at an earlier age.

The college leaving age just must be adjusted to age eighteen (18) to accommodate such change.

We all know that some relations might not be competent enough to help their charges with their school work and even check it for correctness. Nevertheless, all of us live with prolonged families and positively, someone inside those family groupings could assist. As well as, priorities should be balanced.

Prior to COVID-19, some individuals spent hundreds of dollars annually to benefit from the Crop Over festival and the accompanying fetes but wouldn’t spend five hundred dollars per 12 months to help their child with remedial work in the way in which of lessons. Little doubt with Crop Over activities given the green light, this 12 months will likely be no different on this regard.

Our education system needs comprehensive and sensible reform, to facilitate Barbados’ continued participation as a signatory to UNICEF’s Rights of a Child, with respect to the charter coping with their education.

Reform of our system must embrace the marrying of a full technical suite of subject offerings with the standard academic subjects, in ALL our secondary schools. These are but a couple of areas for discussion as we navigate through the shouts of “abolish it”, which emanate from blame-gaming and the bastardising of this transition exam.

A transition test is the fairest approach to allocation to our secondary schools, especially in a society where kisses can grant you favours. Our partial zoning method allows for parental/guardianship selection of college, whereas allocation via full zoning, contravenes a minimum of one in all the charters of UNICEF’s rights of a toddler, to which we’re a signatory.

People should be cognisant of two things.
(1) We didn’t all the time have a Common Entrance (screening) Test. There have been good explanation why it was introduced to create fairness.
(2) Some areas in the UK also scrapped their Common Entrance Exam under the leadership of former Prime Minister Teresa

May, only to undertake its reintroduction to buffer against the issues that surfaced.

The issue just isn’t the Common Entrance Test, just as the issue with private operators in our public transport system just isn’t the incontrovertible fact that private vehicles are allowed to operate therein. There are problems in each systems that we’re simply not addressing. Let’s address the systemic shortcomings first, before we make changes that only transfer the issues from system A to system B.

Let’s get the general public effectively involved and participating in a discussion with respect to education reform before we make any determination based on eroding yet one more of our established developmental standards.

We should always retain a transition test, no matter whether it’s called the Common Entrance Test or by another reference name. Raise the school-leaving age to 18, remove the magic about doing the exam at maximum age of 11 and take the utmost age for sitting this test to age 13, give children the prospect to sit down from age nine in the event that they are capable.

Ensure technical subjects are taught in all secondary schools and discover a couple of for specialised areas of study like music, foreign languages, culinary arts, hospitality and tourism, albeit retaining them in all of the secondary schools with the others using them as a subject option.

Have a filter program in primary schools to filter those with strong traditional academic learning and those that have a powerful technical bias.

With parental/guardianship input and approval, channel each groups to their strengths in order that they can achieve their potential of their areas of strength while ensuring the technically gifted have a minimum of a basic knowledge of English (grammar, writing ability, and speaking),

Mathematics, Social Studies, and one other subject they’re best suited to ‘master’.

Where students are each academically and technically strong, allow them to marry these two areas, in a cross fertilised manner.

As a part of our education reform, there may be an evident need to extend the variety of guidance counselors per 1000 students at secondary schools.

Nevertheless, much more, fundamental and demanding is the necessity to assign guidance counsellors/mentors to our primary schools. This era is essentially the most crucial a part of a toddler’s formative educational years. It lays the inspiration on which they construct their educational progression.

During most constructing construction phases, when design flaws and construction weaknesses are identified relatively early, successful remedies might be employed, to ultimately pass the construction-related tests. Early education bears analogous features of laying a foundation, continuous assessments, remedial work, and eventually testing.

The time is ripe for the managed task of guidance counselors who meaningfully interface with each primary school.

Perhaps financial constraints could also be deemed a deterrent to the Government implementing such an initiative.

Nevertheless, instead, the usage of 4 teams of guidance counsellors assigned to the northern, southern, eastern, and western geographic areas and to the first schools so designated by zone, could be a compromise position explored. Such an initiative could prove to be a very important tool to be used during our youngsters’s primary school education.

Effective utilisation should provide guidance to some teachers, children and relations as they navigate through a minimum of six years of our youngsters’s educational development leading as much as the secondary school transition test. If the authorities engage the general public, people could craft formal presentations delivered individually or collectively, to help us with ending this ‘bandwagonist’ approach toward bastardising the Common Entrance Exam because someone said years ago, “let’s scrap it”.

Allow us to ensure it is going to not be only a hopeful dream for many who desire to make an input to our national education reform and since the leadership has spoken, abolition is now the order of the day, and alarmingly, without the promised public consultation with all stakeholders.

The evident lack of the promised public consultation doesn’t surprise because, in recent times, consultation is one in all those regularly and publicly used buzzwords that would aptly attract the refrain “not bout hay”.

Hopefully, a few of our current and past educators plus analysts in the sphere of education will likely be allowed to make their contribution. Recently the BUT president said they were ignored by the Ministry of Education and the officers of the National Parents Teachers Association amazingly claimed leading as much as the reopening of face-to-face tuition, that they spoke on behalf of oldsters, though they never held conversations with them on this regard.

Hopefully, we are able to have an environment created that democratically facilitates actual individual participation on the national level, resulting in the event of meaningful, workable, and effective education reform.

This column was offered as a Letter to the Editor.

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