A Barbadian education researcher has accused the Government of ‘education malpractice” in the manner in which the island’s school system has been managed.
Today, founder and researcher of the Global Education Reform Research Centre, Terrel Yearwood, was critical of the school placement system under the Barbados Secondary Schools’ Entrance Examination (BSSEE), familiarly known as the Common Entrance or 11-plus exam.
Speaking at a press conference at the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation Small Business and Entrepreneur Centre, Yearwood joined the chorus of dissenting voices to the examination, contending that the assessment system for Class 4 students which tested English Mathematics and Composition was not an accurate test of a children’s intelligence.
“There is nothing wrong with testing or evaluating a child because an exam is basically an evaluation but Common Entrance is too limited in scope. To test a child in such a limited area is education malpractice and you want to pronounce and denigrate a child’s intelligence based on such a practice,” he said.
“We don’t believe problems can be solved by continuous assessment. The problem is inferior schools that we have in this country,” Yearwood suggested.
The researcher contended that the island’s 22 public secondary schools should be assessed on a level playing field.
“There are a lot of people who want to tell you that you can’t have children with different marks in the same school – that is nonsense! The Ministry of Education has been structuring schools in the wrong way and I believe at this point they need to come better,” Yearwood said.
“We believe that every school should be allowed to share fairly and equitably in the allocation process. If you have 100 children who get between 90 and 100 we want to see every school in Barbados having children who have those kinds of marks whereas a place at Parkinson as to be equal to a place at Queen’s College,” he also argued.
The founder of the Global Education Reform Research Centre who explained that he specialises in global security research, went on to suggest that if the ministry was not equipped to handle the task, the management of the island’s secondary schools should be handed over to private institutions.
“I am sure many people in Barbados will support the notion that if the ministry can’t run these schools properly, give out St George [Secondary School] on a management contract to the same St Winifred’s or St Ursula’s people and I’m sure the public of Barbados will be willing to support that extra expense.”
Yearwood openly opposed the allocation of students according to their grades since he noted that this leads to lowered self-confidence and morale among students. He accused the ministry of making ‘ mock sport’ at the students of Barbados and devaluing the institutions as well.
“If a student gets 100 in Maths [and] 98 in English, Harrison College can take them but you want to take children who only got 20 and 30 per cent and pack them into one school. We have schools in Barbados that accommodate 700 children . . . 1000 plus children so why would you take a school that can accommodate 1000 student and place 1000 children in that school who all got low marks . . . you will stand and tell me you are not making mock sport at that school.
“You are destroying that school’s image as a credible institution of learning and no one will want to associate with that school. If the ministry doesn’t know how to run a school that has children with the whole spectrum of marks, with the 20s, 30s and the 80s and the 90s tell them check with St Winifred’s!”
While recommending that the ministry should abolish its current marking system to get into secondary level institution as it puts students at a disadvantage, Yearwood argued that if students were shared an identical syllabus and weren’t segregated intellectually, parents would be willing to send their charges to newer secondary schools.
“If the ministry had to manage these newer secondary schools in a better manner . . . a lot of those people who reside in St Philip won’t have a problem sending their child to Princess Margaret but they will not send their child to Princess Margaret under the system which is being managed by the ministry.” [email protected]