The Barbados National Council of Parents Teachers Association (BNCPTA) has offered to mediate in the dispute between the Barbados Secondary Teachers Union (BSTU) and the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC).
At a meeting between the BSTU and BNCPTA over the weekend, BNCPTA President, Shone Gibbs, offered to contact CXC with the aim of arranging a meeting to seek a settlement of the dispute related to the marking of School Based Assessments (SBAs).
The BSTU recently announced that its members will stop correcting the SBAs, as it has been seeking without success to get CXC to agree to compensation for this task for the last nine years. As a result of the decision, teachers will simply collect the papers from students and hand them over to school principals for passing on to CXC.
Gibbs, in offering to mediate, said the NCPTA was doing so in the interest of the children after the fewer than 10 parents who attended the meeting, had urged the teachers to exercise caution in the action they were proposing to take.
At Saturday’s meeting, teachers revealed that they had sought meetings with the Ministry of Education on the SBA issue and had also engaged the umbrella Caribbean Union of Teachers (CUT) to speak with the CXC top brass but to no avail.
“This whole matter of the correcting of School Based Assessments (SBAs) is something that we have been trying to get the Ministry [of Education] and the CXC to consult and negotiate with us on since 2006,” BSTU president Mary Redman told the meeting.
BSTU also went regional with its position in the same year also when “in December of 2006, I raised that topic at the level of the Caribbean Union of Teachers to start the whole conversation on compensation for SBAs”, Redman added.
Having received no satisfactory response, Redman said BSTU members will no longer be marking the assessments which represent a crucial aspect of students’ CXC examinations.
“All we ask is that the BSTU and CXC do nothing to jeopardize our children,” Gibbs said.
In an invited comment to the media after the meeting, Gibbs held back from throwing the support of parents behind the union. “At this stage, we don’t have a definitive position,” he said. “We are understanding the BSTU position on this matter, and based on what the BSTU said, I believe our concerns should be with CXC, and not with BSTU.”
Gibbs was confident that regardless of the outcome, parents need not worry.
“To the anxious parents out there, I would say that they need not fear on the matter,” he said.
“I believe that in due process there will be some clarity and a decision will be made by the key stakeholders, or the parties involved, but rest assured I am confident that everything will be done to ensure the SBAs are corrected and, as I said earlier, maybe the positive thing … is I know a lot of the teachers also have students who are taking SBAs (and) I don’t think anything will be done to jeopardize their own children, or the nation’s children as a matter of fact.”
However, one of two parents who spoke at the meeting besides Gibbs was not so certain as she questioned whether the action by teachers here would put Barbadian students behind other Caribbean children whose teachers will continue to mark the SBAs.
“What will happen to our children?” she asked.
Redman put that responsibility in the hands of the Ministry of Education and CXC.
“Certainly the Government cannot allow anything to happen to our children writing the CXC, so they will have to make arrangements to get the SBAs corrected. It’s very simple,” she said.
“I don’t understand why people are having such a problem with this because, just as CXC pays to do corrections for the second part…, we’re not withholding anybody’s SBAs. The SBAs are going straight to the principals who have the responsibility to pass them onto CXC,” she added.