Barbadians appear to be divided on whether the Barbados Secondary School Entrance Examination (BSSEE) should be abolished.
Following Minister of Education Santia Bradshaw’s announcement on Monday that 2020 might be the last year for the exam which determines primary school students’ placement in secondary schools, Barbados TODAY took to the streets of The City to find out how residents viewed the decision.
No decision has been made on what will replace the BSSEE, also known as the Common Entrance or 11-Plus exam. But several of those approached by Barbados TODAY said they believed it should remain as is and expressed the view that the alternative might further disadvantage the poor.
On the other hand, there were those who insisted that the exam has been a problem for many years as it put students and their parents under unnecessary stress. They also argued that the BSSEE caused some children who did not pass for particular secondary schools to feel like failures.
Wayne Harewood was one who said he believed the examination created a level playing field for students.
“I just want the table to be level, so let we do the 11-Plus. If I got $10,000, my child will go to Harrison College, if I only got $3,000 my child going to St Leonard’s if the 11-Plus gone. A man will pay for where he wants his child to go if he got money,” he argued.
“But suppose I can’t pay now, what will happen to me? There is no 11-Plus so I can’t prove my worth, but I could prove my mother money or my father money. So I believe the 11-Plus should stay, don’t abolish it,” Harewood insisted.
While she does not have any children of her own, Coral Bennett has three nieces who attended newer secondary schools after sitting the BSSEE and are currently excelling in their various professions.
“I think they should not abolish it. I think it is better for the parents and the children. I always find that people who have money, their children get ahead, and the ones who don’t have, their children are kept down, and I don’t think that is fair in modern days like these. It would not be beneficial to the children, parents or society if they abolish it,” she said.
Darleen Yarde also suggested that the BSSEE gave students a fair chance.
She contended that the habit of parents doing all in their power to have their children placed in the secondary school of their choice, as has been the case under the BSSEE system, would continue even if the examination was abolished.
“I feel it would still cause a problem among the parents because some parents will still want their children go into a higher secondary school, or a particular school. So if they place the children in another secondary school it will still cause confusion, just like it is in the 11-Plus,” Yarde said.
Meanwhile, Angela Brandon-Hall said she held the opinion that no child’s life should be decided at the age of 11. She suggested that if the examination was abolished and students assigned to secondary schools according to where they lived, “we will have people who get island scholarships from all the schools because there will be a level playing field”.
“We just have to get the remedial schools to accommodate all of those children who have special needs and who have special talents. So, I think all we have to do as a people is to sit down and get over this class consciousness that we have, thinking that this school is better than this one and that it will produce a better person than the next.
“We need to realize that the quality of our children starts from within our homes when we, the parents, tell our children how wonderful and how beautiful they are and what special talents they have and how they can use them to build society,” Brandon-Hall said.
Meanwhile, an elderly lady who gave her name as Mrs Alleyne said she wanted the BSSEE abolished a long time ago, since she believed it disadvantaged too many Barbadian children.
She said society must accept that children learn differently and all of them might not be ready at 11 years old to sit the English and Mathematics tests in the BSSEE under the pressure of a time limit.
“Not that children are stupid; they just learn at a different pace. Abolish the examination and find an alternative that would work for all our children. Slow learners should be able to learn at a pace that they can understand,” Alleyne said.