The Barbados Private Sector Association (BPSA) has welcomed Government’s plan to replace the controversial Secondary School’s Entrance Examination (BSSEE), better known as the 11-Plus.
However, a cautious BPSA Chairman Edward Clarke told Barbados TODAY that simply replacing the 11-Plus and examining the zoning method was not the answer to the education woes, pointing out that “a lot more dialogue on the matter and a lot more strategic discussion around education” was needed.
“There is no doubt we have a problem in Barbados and the wider Caribbean on how we educate our children,” said Clarke.
Earlier this week during the start of the 2020/2021 Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure, Minister of Education Santia Bradshaw announced that this year’s sitting of the 11-Plus or Common Entrance as it is also known, would likely be the last.
She disclosed that public consultation on a replacement for that exam would start next month, as she spoke about the allocated $320.1 million for her ministry.
However, Clarke questioned the timing in which authorities wanted to come up with a replacement, saying while it was clear the 11-Plus needs addressing, he does not believe the decision could be rushed.
At the same time, the private sector head is insisting that deeper changes were needed at the primary school level throughout the entire region as Barbados and other countries sought to develop people who would effectively compete globally.
Recalling research that showed that over 70 per cent of school leavers in Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member states have two or less Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) certificates, Clarke said he believed resolution for the issue should start from the primary school level.
He said this was a grave concern for the private sector because while governments were spending hundreds of millions of dollars on education many school leavers hoping to get valuable job experience were not meeting basic requirements for most organisations.
“If the labour market is so competitive we have got to ensure that people are educated to the level required to meet that labour market,” he said.
“It shows me that the problem does not start at the secondary level. So the secondary level is not the problem. The problem starts from primary level, the primary schools. How do we have people falling through the cracks going into secondary schools that still can’t write proper English or do minimum basic things, and people failing miserably in the exam?” he queried.
He said: “A thorough analysis needs to be done on what is going on in our primary school system not just in Barbados but regionally. I think that is where the problem starts, the focus on how we educate our very young children.”
Clarke, an insurance industry official, told Barbados TODAY that as authorities sought to make changes to the education system a lot of attention should also be given to how children would be “educated for the future” to better compete with the rest of the world.
“I think that is where I would like to see a lot of changes in the secondary school system – in how we focus our education of our children for the future – not just going and doing the normal subjects that we are doing today, but getting children ready for the future of the Caribbean and the globe,” he recommended.
He said he also believed there was some disparity in the level of support being given to the various tertiary level education institutions, suggesting that more support was needed in skilled areas.