The Eleven-plus examination is doing more harm than good to the country’s children and needs to go, a 28-year veteran educator warned Tuesday.
Contending that the Common Entrance exam – formally termed the Barbados Secondary Schools’ Entrance Examination (BSSEE) – was not geared towards free thinkers, Sandie Kellman-Field has urged authorities to overhaul the primary school curriculum and focus more on developing the talents displayed by young children.
Kellman-Field however acknowledged that it may be too late to scrap this year’s exam in light of the disruptions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY, the veteran teacher who was awarded an OBE in 2020 for her contribution to education and the Girl Guides movement, said this year’s common entrance exam should be the last.
She said: “Because of where we are because of COVID the best case is to let the children do it. The reason why my suggestion for continued assessment – it is a bit late to do that now. These are things that teachers have to plan
“But in my real gut, this is the year we should finish with Common Entrance. We should have finished with Common Entrance since last year but remember you have to factor in this pandemic and the Ministry [of Education] would not have planned for COVID. I am totally against Common Entrance whether it is now or next year or 2024; it needs to go.”
Kellman-Field maintained that while the Eleven-plus exam is focused only on English and Mathematics, there are other skills that need to be honed by teachers at the pre-school and primary school level.
She said students who were not academically inclined were being left behind, even though they had talents and skills in other areas.
Kellman-Field told Barbados TODAY: “The system is not set up and geared for free thinking. We have to develop the talents our children have to the max, but yes you have to have your Maths and English because you have to have things like communication skills, critical and analytical thinking skills and enunciation.
“You cannot just have a Harrison College and a Queen’s College. You have to have the children who want to be farmers into husbandry, innovators. You want your child to be part of the new creative world. The system is archaic, the Common Entrance is archaic, it’s only producing the children who can do Biology, French, Mathematics, etc. What about the children who are great farmers?”
The owner of Sandie’s School of Literacy, which caters to children from age five, said the Ministry of Education needs to revamp the curriculum from pre-school to primary school.
She suggested the establishment of charter schools, which she said would allow children’s skills in a particular area to be developed.
Charter schools, which have been the subject of much debate and controversy in education circles in developed countries, are independently run schools that receive government funding but operate free of the state school system’s mandates and are accountable to a charter.
Kellman-Field said: “You have to put children in a primary school to do other things and forget just concentrating on Maths and English and Common Entrance. It should not become an end-all and children need to develop in a primary school setting and pre-school in other disciplines.
“You develop and hone those skills from at the incubator stage. We have to look at early childhood education which is so vital. Early childhood incubation level is where we have to start to produce whatever; carpenters, masons, doctors, cricketers, whoever.”
She said she was planning to launch a campaign and a programme for children who need help in honing their skills.