If massive changes to the Common Entrance examination are not thoroughly thought through, it could cause more problems and do more harm to the country’s young people.
So says senior educator John Goddard who agrees that drastic educational reform is necessary but has warned against using the country’s children as “guinea pigs” while attempting to impose sudden changes on the system.
“I am yet to see any coherent plan that the party has put forward and I am concerned about what is going to be put in place for the children of Barbados. The future of our children is at stake,” Goddard warned.
Addressing the Democratic Labour Party (DLP)’s weekly lunchtime lecture, he argued that the sudden change would drastically offset the trajectory of teachers and students who, throughout their entire life of primary education are being prepared for the exam.
In any case, he argued that abolition of the Common Entrance exam is but a small portion of a comprehensive reform plan needed for the country, and warned that this alone would not successfully deal with the troubling issues of education like worsening literacy and numeracy challenges.
“The curriculum in our schools starting from the primary right up to the secondary school right through to university must be reformed. We need to be educating our young people for the 21st century and beyond. Traditional approaches to education need to change if we are going to prepare our young people to live productive lives in modern Barbados. I would like to think that before we make any drastic changes to the system, we must have the widest possible consultation with the stakeholders,” Goddard suggested.
The senior educator, who started teaching in 1972 and has been lecturing in English and Communication Studies at the Barbados Community College says that among the stakeholders who ought to have a say in any educational reform are the country’s ‘ordinary’ citizens.
“All of our people have a vested interest in what happens to our children and we need to do that. We need to put together changes that are sensible and will benefit the young people as well as the nation,” he added.
Goddard suggested that at the primary schools competitive examinations like the common entrance exam should not exiSt Instead, at age seven, nine and 11 diagnostic tests ought to be carried out on students and measures put in place to correct their issues.
“Unless children have brain damage, I cannot see why at 11, some children cannot read and write. The numeracy and literacy skills are alarmingly poor and some may not know because very little information reaches the public on the performance of our children in schools.
“You don’t know much about CXC results except what they choose to let you know about. You know something about CAPE because we look forward every year to find out who got scholarships and boast about who got the CO Williams Scholarship and to see if Harrison College got more than Queen’s [College] this year. But we are not concerned about anything else,” she said.
If you look at the number of children scoring below 30% in the Common Entrance exam, that should tell you something. Numeracy and literacy skills are poor and we should be asking questions about that,” Goddard added.