Ahead of high level meetings between Government and education stakeholders in response to the troubling trend of school violence, a senior educator has joined the chorus of voices calling for an overhaul of the current educational system.
Second Vice President of the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU), Leslie Lett has suggested that such an analysis would likely reveal dangerous links between the structure of the education system and the alarming disregard for authority.
The senior teacher at the Frederick Smith Secondary School also pointed to recommendations made nearly a decade ago in 2010 by the National Advisory Commission on Education (NACE) which has seemingly been ignored by policymakers. Among them was a call for an end to the social comparison of children and the distinction between bright and ‘duncy’ students.
The report also called on the Ministry of Education to stop separating children based on their grades in the Common Entrance Examination. Instead, it proposed alterations to the education system, which would maximize the potential of students with varying abilities, providing all with the opportunity to be successful.
The Commission was chaired by Senior Lecturer in Social Work at the University of the West Indies, Dr. Letnie Rock and included respected educators including former Principal of the Alexandra School and Parkinson Memorial Secondary, Jeffrey Broomes, Senior political science lecturer at the UWI Cave Hill, Dr. Pearson Broomes, BSTU President, Mary-Anne Redman and Chief Education Officer, Karen Best.
In a recent interview however, Lett suggested that the report had fallen on deaf ears and pleaded with fellow BSTU members and policymakers to revisit the critical recommendations as part of its effort to stem the violence.
“I have asked the membership to reflect upon the issue of violence and the extent to which our system of education contributes to that and the extent to which it creates powder kegs which would lend itself to incidents of violence.
“It has been identified by many people and it was part of the recommendations of NACE in 2010, where we have to look at how we allocate students to schools. There is nothing wrong with the 11 plus exam per se, but what do we do with that exam? We might have to re-look that exam and what we do with it, because how we allocate students might be contributing to the very problem that we have today,” said Lett.
Earlier this week, BSTU President, Mary-Anne Redman urged teachers to take all precautions in the interest of their safety, including independently seeking police assistance if necessary. She also called for stiffer penalties for students who threaten the safety of their teachers.
While Lett has not discounted the need for such measures, he believes long-term solutions should also be sought.
“I am looking at the structural and systemic causes of violence. I know responses, to be effective have to be short-term, medium-term and long-term, but long-term solutions require a radical examination of the problem,” said Lett.
“NACE recommended that students be allocated to schools that are as close to their homes as possible. I think we have to look at how we allocate students to secondary schools, because I think this may be one of the contributing factors.”
On Thursday, President of the Barbados Association of Principals of Secondary Schools (BAPPSS), Juanita Wade called for a holistic approach to the scourge of violence, by engaging the home, the church and the community in the discussion.
Similarly, the findings of the NACE report argued that the allocation of students to schools closer to their homes would help to build stronger communities, allow students to participate in more extracurricular activities, foster better relationships with teachers and parents and provide a greater opportunity for all schools to have a more evenly distributed socio-economic and academic environment.
“NACE recognizes that one of the fundamental reasons for the retention of the BSSEE is based on social class and a desire, almost an innate need, for sections of the society to distance and separate themselves from others through access to certain educational institutions. There could be no other reason for its retention since successive governments have put forward the view that all schools are equally allocated resources and are adequately staffed by trained graduate teachers from the UWI and elsewhere. Within this context, therefore, all schools ought to be equal and the automatic transferal to secondary schools should not be fraught with difficulty if the preceding logic is sound,” the report said.