The results of the Barbados Secondary Schools’ Entrance Examination (BSSEE), commonly known as the Common Entrance exam, are out, and as expected there was jubilation in some quarters and disappointment in others as anxious students, parents and teachers received their white slips.
Congratulations are in order for each of the 3, 418 students who took the annual test that determines their placement in the island’s secondary schools.
It was especially heart-warming to share in the big smiles and tears of joy of the top performers who worked hard for their success, even though some will criticize the media for highlighting the high achievers announced by the Ministry of Education.
Most of the boys and girls shared their surprise at their performance but all attributed their achievement to hard work—an inspiring lesson for all.
Island wide, scores rose incrementally across the board in Mathematics, although the national average for English was down when compared to last year.
Minister of Education Santia Bradshaw revealed that the national average in Mathematics was 62.46 per cent, up from 55 per cent last year, while for English it was 69.44 per cent, down slightly from 70.4 per cent.
Of concern for the newly installed minister is the repeated poor performance of some schools.
Said Bradshaw: “There is a core of schools that are consistently in the top 25 performing schools, and there is also a corresponding group of schools that perform the complete opposite. Since taking this office, this matter has been engaging my urgent attention with the ministry staff and it has become an agenda item which I have made a high priority.”
We welcome the minister’s statement and urge that they translate into action.
Year after year around this time, proponents and opponents of the Common Entrance exam reignite the age-old debate about the relevance of the standardized test, whether or not it should be scrapped, what the results mean, the business of zoning, the allocations to the various schools, and the like.
What often gets lost is the long-term view, and hundreds of children are left to fall through the cracks.
Clearly, the Common Entrance is not a perfect test. It has in fact led society to lump students into “bright” and “not so bright” categories—a foolish theory if one considers that passing exams hardly means success in life. A one-shot exam cannot ultimately decide a child’s future.
Perhaps we would be better served by a continuous assessment programme that would allow each child to learn at his or her own pace and develop the necessary skills.
What is really required is a complete assessment of how the Common Entrance exam can be revamped to better cater to our children in today’s demanding world.
It cannot be business as usual when the current work environment requires multi-skilled, innovative people who are able to marry academic, vocational and life skills to succeed.
A modern Barbados requires an education system that will produce students that invent the ideas and products of the future, meet the challenges to come, and develop the next generation of leaders and thinkers.
And there is a place at the table for all aspiring artists, farmers, masons, app developers, researchers, mechanics, dancers, vendors, sportsmen and women.
This would mean a significant overhaul of the current curriculum and a change in mind-sets.
So we will eagerly watch as Ms Bradshaw and her team at the Ministry of Education seek to leave no child behind as she pledged today.
In the meantime, we urge a dose of fresh perspective on the Common Entrance exam.
For the thousands of boys and girls who prepared night and day for the May 8 test, your final score is not the measure of who you are. Life goes on after this exam.
This is but one step on your journey to success. Secondary school awaits and from today and onward you get to choose what you will do with that opportunity.
Set goals, stay focused and be determined to succeed.