As ten and 11-year-old primary school students await their Common Entrance exam results, the hierarchy of the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU) is eagerly anticipating comprehensive changes to the exam’s current structure.
In a statement released to Barbados TODAY on Friday morning, BSTU President, Mary-Ann Redman revealed the country’s education system desperately needed “profound” change, from as early as the nursery level.
Accepting the need for some form of evaluation whether in the form of an exit exam, like the Common Entrance or continuous assessment, Redman argued the education system needed to change its treatment of students after the exam.
“The largely inflexible policy and system that paints all with one brush, with no appropriate differentiation in relevant programmes in keeping with identified needs has contributed to the deep frustrations that many of our young people feel. Their resulting low self-esteem, negative value system and hopelessness have contributed, in too many instances, to the youth deviance that we see today.
“It is our conviction in the BSTU that diverse types of testing are vital to the effective teaching/learning process and we want to see the reintroduction of testing in primary schools for vision/hearing/speech. That was fundamental to identifying impediments to progress and allowing for remedial action to be taken at an early stage. It was stopped in the last few years and needs to be re-introduced,” contended Redman.
During the BLP’s public meeting in celebration of its first year in office, Prime Minister, Mia Mottley revealed that education minister, Santia Bradshaw would be tasked with abolishing the “iniquity of the 11-plus exam”.
She added that too many young people were being placed on the “dump heap” of life after failing the exam and it was resulting in too many youth succumbing to negative vices in society.
Redman suggested that a greater level of focus on “behaviour change modification” and a shift from a purely educational focus were needed.
“At the nursery and primary stage teachers must be properly trained to effectively emphasise and heavily focus on the soft skills: interpersonal skills, values education, conflict resolution, respect for self, for others, for the environment and for our nation … children must again be taught empathy and to be our brother’s keeper…
“Our educational programme must no longer frustrate, demotivate and disenfranchise the large numbers of students that it presently does. The sterling efforts of teachers, who are often themselves frustrated at the system, must result in the rewards of seeing their charges flourish in keeping with their specific attributes,” said Redman.
She also advocated greater educational offerings for special needs children, and called for the re-opening of the Alma Parris School and another similar institution in central or south of the island.
“There must also be the clear distinction made between special needs and remedial education and the appropriate training and resources made available to address both issues,” said Redman.
She also supported calls for the implementation of a middle school-type system to help students transition.
“With a revamping of the primary curriculum and the completion of a middle school programme, we believe that the children at around 14 years old, would be better placed to function in secondary schools, having identified their choices of subject areas at secondary level after completing a programme that would have offered them the fundamentals, in keeping with their identified needs and interests,” said Redman.