The nation’s largest teachers’ union has declared it must be consulted on the Government’s plans to abolish the Common Entrance Examination, among other education reforms.
But item one on the agenda of any talks should be teachers’ workloads, the president of the Barbados Union of Teachers, Sean Spencer has suggested.
Spencer said that for too long, teachers’ input have been ignored on major decisions in the education system.
Through a press release, Spencer said: “The Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) has registered the recent public pronouncement of the Prime Minister speaking to imminent changes to the Barbados Secondary School Entrance Examination (BSSEE).
“The union is mindful of the need for discussion on education reform but is no less cognisant that its role as a stakeholder in education should be recognised and respected.”
Spencer outlined a number of outstanding issues “which needed to be urgently ventilated” in any future public discussion on changes in the education system. Among these were teacher workload resulting from “government education policies, and initiatives, including some antiquated systems and duplicated tasks”.
He added: “Unless teachers’ working lives are improved significantly the situation will not improve.
“Experienced teachers will contemplate leaving the profession while more persons, including graduates, will seriously consider entering other professions.
“The subject of teachers’ workload should feature highly on any agenda for education reform.”
The BUT statement added: “Authorities should establish and regularly use recognised means of consultation with teachers’ organisations on matters such as educational policy, school organization and new developments in the education service.”
While emphasising that it was in no way opposed to education reform the union noted that a recent history of poor communication and lack of respect from the Ministry of Education had left a bad taste in its mouth, in an apparent reference to the tenure of the longest-serving Education Minister, Ronald Jones, during the Stuart administration. Therefore, the BUT said, it was urging the current administration not to repeat the mistake of its predecessors.
The BUT said: “We make known here that teachers and their representatives have a vested interest in the reform of education. We are not the enemy.
“Unfortunately, in the recent past, there has been a lack of respect and lack of communication which lent to a toxic environment.
“An effective antidote to the subsequent effects is required to ensure convalescence.”
During the Barbados Labour Party’s (BLP) rally to celebrate its first year in office on Sunday night, the Prime Minister announced that Minister of Education Santia Bradshaw’s mandate was to abolish the “iniquity of the 11-plus exam”.
Said Mottley to a crowd of supporters at Carlisle Car Park in Bridgetown: “All of us know you cannot discard people at 11 and 12 years old like if they are going on the dump heap of life and everybody is telling them that they haven’t passed.
“We have reached the point where we need to reject an approach to education that was settled by the British in the 1940s.
“Santia will start the conversation over the next six months about the abolition and replacement of the common entrance exam, the creation of middle schools and giving people the chance to decide what school they want to go to at 13 or 14, instead of ten and 11.
“At the end of the Second Form, they can decide if they want to do a science, or technical or humanities or sports or history and geography or commerce or IT.”