Across Barbados today there will be a lot of rejoicing. The results of the 2013 Barbados Secondary Schools Entrance Examination are back and enlightened parents and teachers will be sharing joy with the 11 year olds.
Unfortunately, far too many parents, many of them perhaps misguided, will contribute to a wretched day for some of these children, not because the students have not done their best, but because they might not have met their parents’ expectations.
As we have said on more than one occasion from this column, we believe there is something fundamentally wrong with the continuation of the Common Entrance Exam in its current form largely because we do not believe it is the best tool available for the transfer of our students from the primary to the secondary level and then to prepare them for five or six years of exposure to secondary education.
We believe, like many Barbadians, particularly some of the veterans of our education system, that we have long passed the stage were our children need to be subjected to this method of screening and selection — and hold to the view that our end-of-school results could be much better if we make changes at this critical stage of our children’s development.
But today ought not to be a day of griping about the 11-plus and its failures. Our message today to parents and students who might be disappointed with their results is that this is not the end of life. We will not attempt like some to fool you into believing that all schools are created equal, because they are not — but there is an abundance of evidence to show that when you put in the work you reap the rewards.
Conversely, there is just as much evidence to demonstrate instances where persons who did well in the exam, but who did not put in the amount of work required afterward found themselves in an other-than-enviable position at the end of their secondary school life.
Common Entrance results may get you into the school of your choice — or keep you out — but they offer no guarantees beyond that. And the allocation of a space at Harrison College or The St. Michael School is no more a promise of success than a space at St. George Secondary of Grantley Adams Memorial Secondary condemns one to failure.
What it ought to do is act as a reminder that every student must be given the opportunity to perform at his or her best, given his or her talents. Add to that the fact that more often than not, the sincere and dedicated involvement of parents in a child’s education is worth far more than the name of the school — or even its history.
There are too many success stories in Barbados, regardless of how we define success, whose r√sum√ do not include “attended Combermere” or “attended Queen’s College”. We do not seek to diminish the contribution of these fine institutions to the development of Barbados and Barbadians, but we need to make these points to minimise some of the anguish that will engulf some households for the next few weeks because of secondary school allocations.
Perhaps what is necessary is for our school administrators to ensure that their programmes of introduction for new students involve the old scholars associations from the beginning, so students can see fine examples they can follow — rather than waiting until fourth or fifth form careers day.
Our schools need too to find new ways to engage parents, especially of children who scored poorly in the Common Entrance Exam, so they understand the benefits of active involvement in the day-to-day schooling of their children.
Given the current thinking by those who have the power to make changes, it looks like the 11-plus, in its current form, will be with us for many years to come, so it is important that concerned parents seek to guarantee the future success of their children in other ways.
There is more than one way to skin a cat!