Former government Minister Hamilton Lashley is cautioning Government not to replace the Barbados Secondary School Entrance Examination (BSSEE) with a system that is either similarly flawed or worse.
While admitting that he has always supported abolishing the examination which determines the movement of primary school students to secondary school, Lashley said the alternative should not be based only on what policymakers want, but should come from a national consensus.
The social activist and community organizer said the boys on the blocks must also be included in the process of revamping the education system, stressing the decision-making should not be reserved for a privileged few.
“There should be serious consultation across Barbados and not the usual style of a town hall debate, because there are certain types of people who will be intimidated by the bourgeoisie to speak as it relates to their opinion. What should be done is there should be a census poll to get the opinion of Barbadians per constituency,” he said, a day after Education Minister Santia Bradshaw announced in Parliament on Monday that 2020 is likely to be the final year of the BSSEE.
“I don’t believe that trained educators have the answers to the issues confronting our education system. I believe that some of the best advisors are the people themselves. If it is going to be successful, BLP [Barbados Labour Party], DLP [Democratic Labour Party (DLP) and Opposition Leader Joseph Atherley [of the People’s Party for Democracy and Development] and all other parties must be involved.
“I would bet my life that there is no consideration to involving the leaders of the boys on the blocks in the consultative process. We know that if you ask them to come into schools they are not going to come, so a special forum must be set up so they can air their views and [be treated] as diplomats on this particular subject because they are the recipients of the failure of the 11-plus exam,” he added.
Government’s Advisor on Poverty Alleviation under the previous DLP administration argued that a child’s true ability and purpose could not be decided by a two-subject examination at a particular time in his or her life.
He also argued that the “hype” associated with the BSSEE divides “what we call the successful and the unsuccessful” students, causing some children to go into depression and view themselves as failures.
Lashley pointed out that the majority of children who failed the annual examination were “poor people children” coming from a certain socio-economic bracket and demographic.
“The alternative to the 11-plus examination is critical. What is Government going to offer or replace the 11-plus examination with? I am hoping that it will not be one that is just as contentious as the 11-plus examination. I believe in the process; there must be a complete overhaul of the education system. We have to look at an overall assessment and the impact it would have on the Barbadian society as a whole.
“This aspect, if handled properly, could create one of the biggest revolutionary changes in the social and educational dynamics in this country. If it is viewed only from a partisan position, then it is doomed for failure,” Lashley contended. [email protected]