The euphoria of this year’s Barbados Secondary Schools’ Entrance Examination is yet to wear off as students, parents and teachers celebrate now that the results are in.
Deserving congratulations go out to every student, teacher and parent who engaged in months of intense preparations for the big test.
It’s a sheer delight to watch the happy youngsters rejoice as they gear up for the next stage of their educational journey.
And while some are critical of the attention paid to top achievers, these innocent students who worked hard deserve their moment in the spotlight. Honest hard work and success should always be celebrated, particularly in a society where productivity is in question.
Of course, there is the other side of the coin, where students who were unsuccessful or those who did not meet their goals are not feted. They deserve no less encouragement and support.
Lest one is still prone to point fingers, neither the successful students nor those who fell short are at fault. What is at fault is the archaic, unjust, ineffective system that Barbados continues to use to transition ten to 11-year-olds to secondary school.
Every year we celebrate the results and then merely grumble that the Common Entrance exam is a failure. So, come September, the island’s ‘brightest students’ will head to the so-called ‘top’ schools while the remainder will enter the ‘other’ schools.
Yet all students will be expected to complete the same curriculum, at the same pace and sit the same Caribbean Examination Council’s Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate.
We still haven’t accepted that this sends the message that all schools are not equal and that those who excel at academics are somehow superior to students skilled in the arts and other technical vocations.
We continue this approach through to fifth form, and even sixth, when again some will leave celebrating their seven or eight CXCs, Barbados Scholarship or Exhibition, versus those who exit school with no qualifications, clueless as to their next move.
Didn’t the genius Albert Einstein tell us that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results?
It is baffling that this system has remained unchanged even in our advanced age, which demands so much more from our youth, the future of tomorrow.
Admittedly, finding a suitable, realistic and effective replacement for the Common Entrance exam is not an easy task, but we have to start somewhere.
Noted educators have long proposed a proper system of zoning, which would entail students being sent to schools closest to where they live.
There have also been recommendations for continuous assessment rather than a foolhardy one-shot exam to determine the fate of our children.
Time has long passed for the Ministry of Education, our educators and other stakeholders to fully explore these methods and others that can ensure all our children have a fair chance at a quality education that will contribute to their development as well-rounded, productive citizens.
But there’s a bigger concern at the crux of this issue. Barbadians must change their mindset.
This traditional view that the older secondary schools – Harrison College, Queen’s College, St Michael, Combermere, etc. – are somehow elite is nonsensical. That Mathematics, Physics, Biology and Chemistry are superior to Home Economics, Wood Work and Technical Drawing is a farce.
That being a doctor, lawyer, or bank manager is the definition of success while being a farmer, a carpenter, an athlete or an artist are best left for the “not so bright”.
Parents and teachers have a duty to guide their charges sensibly towards recognizing, developing and celebrating their varying abilities.
And then it’s up to education authorities to provide every child with the best possible opportunity to excel.
Anything less – like the Common Entrance – deserves a failing grade.