A vocal critic of the Common Entrance Examination has declared that the time has come for schools to introduce a form of continuous assessment, particularly to help students with learning difficulties get the help they need earlier on in their school life.
Sandie Field-Kellman, an early childhood education specialist with over 30 years of teaching experience, again called for education reform, as authorities mull over this year’s 11-Plus examination which has been delayed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Early last year, Government had outlined its intention to abolish the one-time, formative assessment of primary education.
In a Barbados TODAY interview she said: “I would like to see a restructuring of the educational system, and it has to happen now. Not two years or ten years from now, it has to happen now.
“We need to scrap the Common Entrance – yes we need to have an exam, but some other kind of criteria or continuous assessment, something else needs to be in place.
“I really believe in continuous assessment, because it is a follow-through. It is not something that I go to on the 2nd of November or the 10th of May, at a school and sit a two-hour exam in Math and English that I really and truly cannot handle because of a lot of challenges I may have academically.
“No one evaluated [the child] along the road, but expects [them] to write a 400-word essay… A lot of children have challenges and cannot put their thoughts to paper. So how do you really mark that child?
More time should be spent working with children under the age of five in helping them develop their creative interests, the early childhood educator suggested. It was her view that for far too long the attention is placed on the academic pursuits of young children and not in their artistic leanings that many show while still at the preschool and primary level.
Field-Kellman said: “The earlier, the better – these things should be brought to the fore in the preschools, and for me, that age group and that level of education is most important because that is where children absorb before they get to all the distractions. That is the age of taking in, and learning with curiosity, asking questions… why wait till a child has passed that age, then to introduce creative [subjects].
“An incubator setting is of importance, and when you teach children those fundamental life skills, it takes areas, not only in Barbados but regional and international areas as well.”
The lack of West Indian history being taught earlier on in the school system was also a cause of concern for Field-Kellman, who said that without placing the emphasis on encouraging young students to read and understand more about the society around them, more will enter adulthood without comprehending the richness of their heritage.
She told Barbados TODAY: “When we look at restructuring, we also need to include things like soft skills, civics, and we need to include West Indian history. When I was going to school I learnt a lot about European history, as opposed to West Indian history and Barbadian history. We should be looking at Barbadian culture; if I was not well-read, I would not know anything about our culture at my age.
“If I did not decide to read, I myself would not know about Barbadian culture and history. Are we teaching these things in school right now? No, we are not… the average child in school does not know who was the Prime Minister 30 years ago.”
Field-Kellman stressed that soft skills, literacy and history are a must for young children in present-day Barbados as they seek to chart their paths for the future.