President of the Association of Public Primary School Principals (APPSP) Hyacinth Harris is opposed to scrapping this year’s Common Entrance Exam despite lingering uncertainty about the firm date of the critical assessment.
In an interview on Tuesday, Harris revealed that with important matters still outstanding, the June 22 sitting announced in late December continues to be viewed as tentative.
“With regard to the Common Entrance, we are still awaiting a definitive statement from the Ministry of Education in terms of the date and so on. We had been given a date initially, but they are still saying that this is a fluid situation and we are still working on what must be done prior to administering the tests,” Harris told Barbados TODAY.
“Parents still have to complete the choice of [secondary] school forms and all of that still has to be done before we can test the students. A lot of work needs to be done and as soon as we get that information, I am sure the ministry will convey [the final date] to the press,” she added.
Shortly after an announcement late last year from Education Minister Santia Bradshaw, the country entered its second wave of COVID-19, forcing thousands to resort to online classes.
Despite the challenges this has brought upon teachers, students, principals and parents, the APPSP president says there are currently no alternatives to the controversial exam.
“I am not necessarily in favour of scrapping unless we have an alternative that is reasonable and that does not disadvantage any child. As it is right now, students were preparing to write the exam and I think you need to put systems in place for them to do that,” she added.
Still, the veteran educator says this year’s teaching experience has been rough and both principals and teachers are tired.
“I could understand why that is so because working from the screen is extremely taxing on the eyes and you must also consider that preparation must be done beforehand. So it has been very rigorous for everybody and you must also consider that principals are expected to visit the teachers’ classrooms to monitor what is happening and assist where possible. It has not been easy,” Harris stressed.
In addition to the Common Entrance, the APPSP president explained that teachers are now exploring innovative ways of assessing students’ performance in circumstances where traditional assessment may be impossible.
“We still want to ensure that there is integrity in the results and in the online environment, it is not always easy to ensure that there is that integrity, especially with young children. But there are different formats that you can use,” Harris told Barbados TODAY.
“You can use a project to gather your assessment results and in using a project, students are expected to operate at a higher level of understanding. So they are moreso operating at an analysis level instead of just regurgitating information . . . and of course whatever project is given must be based on what is taught,” she added.
When asked about a face-to-face restart, the principal explained that it is still too early to tell, but stressed that any discussion about vaccines must respect the teachers’ right to choose.
“We haven’t discussed it as yet, but I am always saying that we all prefer face-to-face and the physical classroom. That is the ideal approach, because you can assess where students are much better . . . There’s an interpersonal relationship that you need to have with the student,” Harris explained. ([email protected])