Minister of Education Ronald Jones has raised concern over the drop in the number of students writing the 11-plus exam, saying this was due to a declining national birth rate.
Jones pointed out during a news conference Wednesday morning at his office at the Elsie Payne Complex on Constitution Road, that 3,216 students wrote this year’s exam, representing an 8.8 per cent decline from last year’s figure of 3,527.
In fact, according to statistics provided by the Ministry of Education, there has been a steady decline over the past five years.
In 2012, 3,970 students were registered to sit the exam, compared to 3, 840 in 2013. The numbers dropped further to 3,727 in 2014 and 3,481 in 2015. The following year, there was a slight increase to 3,527 before the numbers dropped again this year to 3,216.
“And that is as a result of . . . if you have been following what has been happening, there’s been a declining birth rate in Barbados and this is being reflected in the number of students at age 11, who have been writing the exam,” the minister of education told reporters.
He warned that the implications of the falling birth rates extend beyond the education system.
“It’s not only for the schools, but for the nation as a whole, where a declining population will have an impact on what we do to support older generations and national development as a whole,” he said.
According to the last census released by the Barbados Statistical Service in 2013, the island’s total population stood at 277,821.
Back in 2014, Jones called on the population to have more children, to counter the problem of falling birth rates.
And last year, Minister of Social Care Steve Blackett joined the Jones chorus of concern, while announcing that by 2025, citizens over the age of 60 would make up 20.4 per cent of the island’s population.
At the time, Blackett told a consultation on the society that this presented concerns at the individual, family, organizational and societal level.
Chairman of the National Assistance Board Senator David Durant has in the past put forward suggestions for monetary incentives to be offered to married couples to encourage them to expand their families.
The Barbados Family Planning Association has said that any discussion on the island’s population must deal not only with the matter of having more children, but should also focus on wider development issues. (MCW)