There still has been no final agreement on a number of teachers’ concerns regarding this island’s first online school term.Furthermore, the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) has said the conditions related to re-opening of some classrooms in June as announced by Government, was merely a “proposal” presented at a May 15 meeting of stakeholders.
A source told Barbados TODAY when the teachers’ unions met again today to continue the discussions, nothing concrete had resulted.
But when this media house reached out to President of the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU) Mary Redman today for feedback on the outcome of the meeting she would only say “many recommendations from sub committees that the Minister will speak on when they have been finalized.”
Pressed further to elaborate, the BSTU head would only add “recommendations only…not policy yet.”
In a recent statement regarding the reopening of the physical classrooms, the BUT had said that on May 14, five subcommittees met for the first time to discuss, among of things, the Barbados Secondary School Entrance Examination and the CXC Operations (CSEC & CAPE 2020).
That meeting, according to a release from the BUT, also discussed teaching time (synchronous & asynchronous instruction), temporary teacher performance and student assessment.
The BUT statement had accused the ministry of “grossly” misinforming the public, a reference to pronouncements made by Minister of Education Santia Bradshaw at a press conference Saturday at which she announced that the physical classroom will reopen on June 15.
But the union says the conditions surrounding the re-opening were just a proposal and that no firm agreement had been reached.
“A number of proposals and recommendations were put together [by the sub committees]. On May 15, 2020, a meeting of a wider body of stakeholders in education was chaired by the Minister of Education. No concrete agreement was made on the conditions for the reopening of schools.
“For the purpose of clarity, it was proposed that Class 4 students would return to the classroom on June 15 to have four weeks of face-to-face instruction,” said the BUT.
“This was agreed pending a discussion with primary school principals but not before they had engaged Class 4 teachers.
“Further discussion was to take place on Monday, May 18. Additional logistics and requirements were also to be investigated by primary school principals.
“The union has strongly objected to the notion that school began on May 4 since remote teaching – and staff meetings in some cases – commenced on April 14. To discount the three weeks of instruction which occurred during that period and extend the term until July 24 would amount to a 14-week term,” the union pointed out.
It argued that this would also have implications for any organisation of the 2020/2021 school year.
“This series of events also emphasizes the deficits in the communication of the Ministry of Education and the lack of consideration for future administration of schools.
“To this end, the BUT cited the need for additional guidance with respect to the students of class 3 and 4th form due to write the BSSEE and CSEC exams in 2021 should the two-year programmes be restricted to four terms of direct instruction in class 4 and 5th form respectively,” the BUT release read.
The union said that with there having been no further dialogue, the statements of May 16 on the reopening of schools may be considered to be premature.
“The union is of the view that it is misleading to inform that any agreement was finalized, other than in basic principle. If the ministry is prepared to publicly discuss proposals and recommendations relevant to exams and the reopening of schools, similar disclosure should obtain for the discussions of the five sub committees,” it said.
The BUT was also at pains to point out that the first draft of the Guidelines for the Safe Reopening of Schools (June-July 2020) compiled by the Ministry of Education was received by the union after yesterday’s press conference.
“Without the courtesy of access to the full text of the guidelines to make pronouncements alluding to the full agreement of the BUT on proposed guidelines – and other proposals and recommendations – is to grossly misinform the public,” the teachers’ bargaining body declared.
Meanwhile, the Caribbean Union of Teachers (CUT) has expressed “deep” concern about the decision taken by the Council for Human and Social Development ( COHSOD) at a meeting on May 8, 2020 to support the administration of the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) for the CSEC Examinations to be held in July 2020 contrary to the recommended position of the CUT for the sitting to be held in September, 2020.
In a statement issued today, the CUT said that “this unfortunate decision places the lives of thousands of students and teachers at risk, as all the issues surrounding the administering of the examinations have not been addressed.”
In a letter from the CUT to the Registrar of CXC, dated April 16, 2020, the CUT informed the council that “We had engaged our member units and they are vehemently opposed to the administration of the CXC examinations any time before September 2020.”
The umbrella body for teachers’ unions in the region said the letter outlines several concerns including health and safety issues, the need for greater engagement on the format of the examination, the validity issues associated with the proposed format of the examination and the technological capacity and infrastructural limitations of many of the educational institutions throughout the region.
Other areas of concern are the time that is required to provide psychological support and the uncertainty as it relates to the COVID 19 in the region.
The CUT said that in order to administer the examination, it is anticipated that educational institutions will be re-opened.
“We are not confident that the governments of the region have demonstrated the level of preparedness for the planned re-opening of schools in order to create a safe environment for students and teachers to effectively operate.
“We are aware that there are governments in the region who have re-opened schools and some will in short order. We consider such a move to be reckless unless the requisite health provisions have been made,” declared the umbrella body.” (EJ)
This story has been corrected. An earlier version of this article incorrectly included a photo and comments attributed to BSTU President Mary Redman.
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