A former teacher and Minister of State in the Ministry of Education is 100 per cent behind the Common Entrance Examination remaining the method of determining what secondary schools children attend when they leave the primary school level.
Cynthia Forde, a former primary school teacher of 25 years, told Barbados TODAY that the exam, formally called the Barbados Secondary School Entrance Examination (BSSEE), is a fair way to assess students for the transition.
Amid calls for the exam to be scrapped, the Member of Parliament for St Thomas expressed her support for the test on the sidelines of a Barbados Labour Party media briefing in the St Philip South constituency yesterday afternoon.
“It has always been my understanding and my experience that the bank manager’s child will write the exam at the same time as [the child of] his maid or gardener, and once that child has the ability and the training to write that examination, both of them could probably go to the older grammar schools or to the newer secondary schools, or perhaps go and get a bursary,” she said.
Forde, who served as Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Youth Affairs and Culture before becoming Minister of State in the Ministry of Education, Youth Affairs and Sport, said it was best not to tinker with the structure of the BSSEE without proper thought or guidance.
“It will only inhibit poor people’s children from being able to go into those schools that people perceive to be prestigious,” she said, adding that what needed to be eliminated was the pressure put on students sitting the examination.
“I believe that the exam as it is, is good. You just need to take out some of the emotion . . . and let the children do it as if it would be an end of term exam . . . . I’m all for the Common Entrance at this time as it is, but I want for them to take out some of the five and six textbooks in Math at one time; and lessons here today, and tomorrow with someone else; and take out the ‘unless you pass for Combermere don’t come back in my house because I went there’. I am tired of it .This society is too stigmatized and all it is doing is destroying our youth,” Forde lamented.
“The stigmatization and classism is what is killing our children. And we [have to] work with them and give them that one opportunity to do it smoothly without any pressure.”
She encouraged families and communities to work together to ensure children are properly prepared for the Common Entrance Exam, rather than simply pressure them to do well.
“Once you prepare the environment and the nurturing, and parents and teachers and community workers work with children so that it takes a whole village to raise a child, the Common Entrance would never be a problem. Work with them. Nurture them, embrace them. Encourage them, because you want them to do well. And if they don’t do well, once teaching takes place, learning takes place and once you stick to the methodology and you make every child feel like he or she is a human being who will excel . . . Barbados will be a wonderful place again.”