Proponents for the disbanding of the Barbados Secondary Schools’ Entrance Examination (BSSEE), familiarly known as the Common Entrance or 11-plus exam, have found a strong ally in the form of the head of the School of Education at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Cave Hill Campus.
As a matter of fact, Professor of Education and Director of the School of Education, Joel Warrican, contends that Barbados and the rest of Caribbean are subjecting Class 4 children to an assessment system that is racist in its origin.
“The funny thing is that this exam came out of an unjust system. It’s an exam that we inherited from the UK, started through a psychologist called Cyril Burt. He devised this exam basically to separate the sheep from the goat, to ensure that the best students go to top schools and the others somewhere else. Later, Cyril Burt was discredited as being racist. He did not like blacks, did not like Pakistanis and so forth. This exam is really to make sure that the best white persons go to the top schools,” explained Warrican.
In his interview with Barbados TODAY this morning the academic noted that even though the demographic makeup of Barbados is predominantly black, the elitist construct of the Common Entrance Exam has not changed.
“We have kept it. We hear officials say to us that it is the fairest way to ensure that our people get the best education. Well, who are our people? Is it just the few persons who are going to do extremely well and benefit from the so-called top secondary schools? What happened to the large percentage of students, who through this exam, are sent to certain schools? They are not well supported, and they end up quite often becoming a stress on our society,” said Warrican, who acknowledged that in recent years the success rate of the “second tier” secondary school had improved tremendously.
However, the educator said that it would not be an easy task to convince the decision-makers in the education system that change was necessary, as many of them are the beneficiaries of the elitist structure and therefore want the system of exclusivity to remain intact.
“I contend that many people like it because many of us have benefited from it. Many of us have gone to those same top schools and do not want certain types of students going into these schools and we want to keep the status quo” he charged.
Warrican told Barbados TODAY that he was not against assessment before entering secondary school but rather was concerned about the manner in which the garnered information was being currently used. He argued that instead of using Common Entrance results as the benchmark for school allocation, they should be used to correct the students’ deficiencies.
“I think it should be disbanded, totally disbanded. I support an assessment system because it is not just about disbanding an exam. You can use an assessment to get the relevant information, the necessary information about a child so that you can help them. So, when the student goes to secondary school, it should not just be a transfer from primary to secondary school,” he stressed.
Last week former Member of Parliament for St Michael South East, Hamilton Lashley, made a similar call for scrapping the 11-plus examination. He linked social segregation in the island to the BSSEE. He suggested that the exam has led to division among young children who passed for older secondary schools and those enrolled in the newer secondary institutions.
“I am one of those persons who believes that the examination should be scrapped. I do not understand why in a modern era when we have so many different models of primary education that we cannot find the right model. What has me puzzled is why do we continue with an examination that determines the success of a child based on two subjects English and Maths. It lends a sort of inferiority complex to some of those children who fail the 11+ exam,” Lashley said at the time.