Dr Mariana Alfonso got it all wrong!
That was the response of Minister of Education Ronald Jones to the senior Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) official’s criticism of Barbados’ education system.
Earlier this month, at the fifth international conference on higher education, Alfonso, a senior education specialist, warned that the overall level of learning on the island was still below par.
Using research conducted between 1999 and 2012, the IDB official claimed that many school leavers had failed to meet the basic requirement of obtaining four Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) passes for entry into the public service.
Of the students who actually take that exam, 50 per cent obtain far more CSEC passes, but only after multiple sittings, while “only 6.1 per cent of the students in Barbados get the four passes in the first sitting of the exam”, Alphonso had pointed out.
However, Jones went to the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) South Alive political meeting at Deighton Griffith Secondary School last evening armed with his own research to prove otherwise.
Presenting data from 1993 to 2015, the minister said that 25 per cent of the students had failed to secure a single CSEC subjects in 1993, while 50 per cent had received between one and three passes and 45 per cent had gained more than four subjects in the June exam.
By 2009, he said, the number of students failing to secure any passes had dropped to ten per cent, while 57 per cent had received between one and three passes and 62 per cent had gained four or more.
The pattern was similar from 2010 to 2105, Jones explained, with the number of students failing to secure a single subject at about ten percent, those with up to three passes ranging between 55 per cent and 59 per cent and the number securing four passes or more at between 62 per cent and 66 per cent.
While Alfonso “didn’t mean any harm, the information was all wrong”, he told party supporters at the joint meeting.
The minister explained that there was an anomaly in the system because a number of students who sat two or three CSEC subjects in fourth form and then take additional subjects in fifth form.
Jones pointed out that under the current system, the passes would be counted according to the year the student sat the exam and not the total passes achieved by the student upon leaving school.
“So I have worked out in my mind that we don’t only need the exam statistics in the year, but we need an exit statistic. Once that child leaves fifth form I want to know how many subjects that child has. Not the subjects according to the year.”
He added that over last eight years, education officials had been focused on improving the performance of students and their efforts had been bearing fruit. He promised to present even more detailed statistics at a later date.