Retired principal of the Parkinson Memorial School Jeff Broomes is not in favour of scrapping the Common Entrance Examination, otherwise known as the 11-plus.
However, delivering a public lecture here recently on the theme Addressing Youth Violence – Protect Our Children, Save Our Community, he called on the Ministry of Education to take what he suggested was a much-needed second look at its system of allocating students to secondary schools, based on those exam results.
“It is nonsensical to me at a time when we have more than enough secondary school spaces and when there is at least one secondary school in every parish, we are still languishing in practices that were necessary for a past that needed to function in the way to address the problems of the time,” Broomes said, while complaining that there was unnecessary mass movement of students across the country on a daily basis as the society continued to “immortalize” certain “brand name” schools.
“In addition to negatively impacting the available time for students to be involved in the after-school character building extra-curricular activities, it also leaves our children exposed and presents an expensive challenge to our transportation system. And why is this still happening? Is it simply to immortalize brand name schools?” he asked, while cautioning that “these are different days and all that is presented is a message that we have prima donnas at the top and failures at the bottom.
“It does not have to be like this! It should not be like this. The allocation process is crying out for a change,” Broomes, who was also a principal of the Alexandra School, stressed.
A similar call was made earlier this month by the now past President of the Barbados Union of Teachers Pedro Shepherd.
Amid a worrying increase in violence in schools, Shepherd told the opening ceremony of the BUT’s 44th annual general conference at Almond Bay in Worthing, Christ Church that a special committee established by the umbrella union two months ago had concluded that the practice of placing all underachieving students at select schools was creating an environment that breeds indiscipline.
In support of that position, Broomes said: “Unfortunately, but understandably, for developing young minds that can be easily manipulated, inter group rivalries and disagreements are quite prevalent. This often leads to unacceptable behaviours which involve hurtful acts, even bullying.”
Broomes also suggested there was need for change to the schools’ curriculum, contending that it must be relevant, engaging and challenging in response to the academic differences of students.
“There are children in each school who are strong academically and some who are weak academically. There are children who learn better by doing, some by hearing, some by seeing and some by all the different senses. As an international student mantra says,’ tell me and I will forget; show me, I may remember; involve me and I will understand.’ That’s a clear imperative for active student engagement,” he said, while suggesting that weak students should be given a remedial year to work on specific knowledge gaps before being placed in the normal first form.
“Lower first and One Preps are nothing new and have previously served the purpose. They can again. All children throughout the different year groups should be then allowed to benefit from intervention strategies in small groups to address their identified weaknesses in core subjects,” he said, while arguing that remedial classes did not necessarily mean more expenditure.
“This calls for no more teachers and no more expenditure. Throw out the idea of teaching subjects. We are to be teaching children and sometimes giving up one or two free lessons is necessary to achieve our stated purpose,” the veteran educator said.
“Let’s also be proactive and take actions to help and not simply to punish,” he added.