The Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) is calling on Government to ditch its current policy of allocating students to secondary schools, arguing it was contributing to a rise in school violence.
BUT President Pedro Shepherd said a special committee established by the union two months ago, following a series violent incidents among students, concluded that the practice of placing all underachieving students at select schools was creating an environment that breeds indiscipline.
“The system of allocating students to our secondary schools is a problem and the Ministry of Education needs to review the current allocation system for the Barbados Secondary Schools’ Entrance Examination [commonly referred to as Common Entrance exams] which would allow for some of the slower students to be allocated to the so-called better schools. I am sure that it was already suggested that 30 per cent of the allocation to those schools be taken from among the underachievers,” Shepherd told the opening ceremony of the BUT’s 44th annual general conference at Almond Bay in Worthing, Christ Church this morning.
Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Education Harry Husbands had said in February that the recent upsurge in violence among students was due to a rise in gang activity at learning institutions.
Husbands said at the time gangs were infiltrating the island’s schools and were getting into territorial fights at the encouragement of grown ups.
His assessment had come on the heels of a stabbing at Grantley Adams Memorial School, which left four students injured and forced the school’s closure for two days. A week earlier four students from the Daryll Jordan and Frederick Smith secondary schools had suffered multiple stab wounds as violence erupted among students of the two schools aboard a state-run Transport Board bus.
However, Shepherd contended that the problem ran much deeper, insisting that the ministry’s “one size fits all” approach to education was creating frustration among students who were not academically inclined.
“The curriculum being used at the newer secondary schools needs to also be adjusted in order to reflect the intake from the Barbados Secondary Schools’ Entrance Examination. The current system is flawed as it was relying too heavily on certification,” he stressed, while pointing to the Caribbean Vocational Qualification (CVQ), which promotes a competency-based approach to training, assessment and certification.
The Caribbean Examination Council, which administers the CVQ, says students are expected to demonstrate competence in attaining occupational standards developed by practitioners, industry experts and employers.
The CVQs, which were intended for those that were not so academically inclined, is proving to be highly academic in nature and require lots of written expression,” Shepherd complained.
The BUT head also made a series of recommendations, which he said the Minister of Education should adopt in order to get a grip on the level of school violence.
“We . . . believe that the Ministry of Education ought to realize the magnitude of the aggressive behaviour of our students and put systems in place to reduce it. One suggestion might be to provide mandatory counselling for troubled students even at the primary level. We also believe that there should be residential programme for violent and deviant students so as to remove them from the contributing environments, namely their homes and communities.
“There should also be a remedial reading programme to benefit the slower students, who oftentimes become frustrated when a text is placed before him or her,” he stressed. (CM)