A call has been made for Barbados’ secondary schools to be converted to Schools of Excellence.
The suggestion has come from principal of Queen’s College Dr David Browne, who believes the move will help to steer the focus away from “academic high flyers” and concentrate more on the individual needs of students.
Speaking during last night’s panel discussion hosted by the Ministry of Education, Technological and Vocational Training entitled Something Old, Something New: Confronting the Challenges to Create the Right Blend for 21st Century Education, Dr Browne said there needed to be educational reform.
“I just want to say that we talk a lot about high-stakes exams and how it causes a divide in the population. If we are honest with ourselves we do it. The Common Entrance was never allowed to do what it was supposed to do. It was us who took it and corrupted it…
“Right now we are discussing Schools of Excellence. I am suggesting to you that if we take the secondary schools in Barbados and create Schools of Excellence out of them that those who want to go the academic road will go the academic road…” Dr Browne said.
He pointed to the establishment of the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic [now Samuel Jackman Prescod Institute of Technology] in 1969, to fill a need for a technical and vocational educational facility.
He said some schools could be used to teach technical and vocational education at a lower level.
“We have the excellent opportunity now because we are talking about establishing middle schools. Some of our secondary schools can become the technical schools and I’m suggesting that if these technical schools are established with the academic work to it, you will see eventually the whole veneer about the academic high flyers and the high stakes exam will almost disappear,” Dr Browne contended.
Another panellist, Dr Coreen Leacock agreed with Dr Browne that high-stakes exams were promoting segregation.
She said children were being taught to “use their hands” only in circumstances where they were not academically inclined.
“Technical and vocational education is often reduced to being told, “learn to do something with your hands”, suggesting that if you haven’t got a head you might as well use your hands,” Dr Leacock, a senior lecturer at the University of the West Indies pointed out.
“The folly in all of that is that there are students who can use head who also want to use hand, but because of the stigma that is attached to using hand by the way in which we assess children and the way in which we use the assessment to assign them to schools, we are telling those children who want to use both head and hands that it is not for them.”
Dr Leacock said children were being taught that making money trumped everything else.
Teacher and tutor at Erdiston Teachers’ Training College, Dwayne Best, said it was important for all levels of intelligence to be respected.
“We have to see all other intelligences as being important as well, so that a person who is a dancer or an athlete is no less important than a person who is good at astronomy,” he said. ([email protected])