Minister of Education Santia Bradshaw is being asked to provide clarity on how and when the Barbados Secondary School Examination (BSSEE) will be abolished.
The call came today from Government backbencher and Member of Parliament for Christ Church South Ralph Thorne, following Bradshaw’s announcement that steps to abolish the exam, which for decades has determined what secondary school the island’s primary school students will enter, could be replaced by next year.
“Barbadians have invested heavily, both financially and emotionally, into the Common Entrance Examination over the years. It is the timing this country deserves to know something about,” the Member of Parliament for Christ Church South said on day one of the Estimates debate.
“Now, I don’t teach, I am only a parent, and there are parents and teachers presently preparing their second and third formers for an exam in 2021 and they deserve to know when Government proposes to implement the abolition. Will it be incremental? Will it come in one fell swoop? You made the disclosure, so the country is now entitled to hear when the new scheme will come into being.”
In response, Bradshaw said an advisory committee within the Ministry of Education has been established and there would also be stakeholder engagement on the matter.
“And we have engaged the principals on the transition, looking at the types of schools, the issues they have and challenges, and looking at the type of curriculum we would have to tailor and tweak based on what we are seeing in the education system,” she said.
The Minister, who is also the Member of Parliament for St Michael South East, said the nature of education had changed and merely “teaching for a test” would not take Barbados very far in the modern world.
“We are mindful that one of the biggest challenges is that we have been teaching for a test and the rest of the world has stopped teaching for a test, and we will be left behind if we keep on doing that. All of the learning now is showing we must equip young people to discover, to explore, to question, and to inquire. The days of reading a comprehension and simply pulling an answer from the narrative and then five minutes later you cannot clearly state what you have learned from it, must come to an end,” Bradshaw contended.
She added that there were many young Barbadians living in the Diaspora or who had studied overseas who wanted to apply some of what they learned to their home country, and she believed a change in the education system would make that process easier.
“We are seeing young people taking the knowledge they have gained in science and IT to transform Barbados and this is what we need to focus on; not just to come out of school and look for a job, but to create opportunities for themselves,” Minister Bradshaw said.
“And when I interact with young people across the world from Barbados, they want to find a way to give back to Barbados and want to be able to find an environment where we are creative and innovative, so we have to transform our thinking from sitting an exam to becoming explorers and innovators.”