Education officials are still very much open to deferring or totally abandoning this year’s Common Entrance Examination which is tentatively tabled for June 22nd.
Minister of Education, Technological and Vocational Training Santia Bradshaw noted that while the ultimate decision would depend on assessments carried out this school term, early indications suggest that class 4 students are “very concerned” about the current plan.
“A lot of the students are very concerned about feeling as though they have been rushed through the system. These are 10-year-olds telling me this, not parents. Many of them are nervous, they are anxious about having to do this exam, which is normal. They also spoke to feeling as though they were rushed to understand concepts and prepare and I don’t know that we can ignore 10-year-olds saying that that is how they feel,” Bradshaw acknowledged.
“So it is a combination of hearing from the teachers who are teaching them, whether they have completed aspects on the syllabus, but also on paper, being able to determine whether these children are actually ready with the right conditions of having the face-to-face to be able to sit the exam.”
The tentative exam date was announced late last year considering numerous setbacks brought on by the COVID -19 pandemic, including the cancellation of face-to-face classes that extended into 2021. Only two days ago, students entered physical classrooms for the first time this year.
Unlike with the current deliberations on the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC), Barbadian officials can determine the way forward for the annual secondary entrance exam.
“There are different options. Obviously not doing the exam is one, deferring the exam is another or simply just working with the kids to bring them up to a certain level or doing over a year,” Bradshaw disclosed.
“Once we know where the students are at, then we can decide whether the students go back in September, do we do a summer school, do we find a way to catch up on the tuition, being mindful that it is still teachers that have to teach them. So all of those things are pretty much on the table, but first, we need to know where the kids are at,” she added.
The education minister’s position is however quite similar in relation to the controversial CXC exams that are set to occur in June and July of this year. As recently as this week, she met with the examining body and regional ministers of education. But Bradshaw admits there are significant academic and economic implications associated with deferring that would need to be further fleshed out.
As a result, she lauded a recent CXC decision to at least extend the deadline for deferrals.
“Obviously as more children are stressed out, they feel like not completing the syllabus. Obviously, the pressure is on more and therefore I don’t see how we could ignore it… and there will be cost implications if we push back the date, because if you push back the date, you will need to have additional people to mark. If you try to change the paper, you have the issue of papers being printed already. So can you now put together a team to put together the modifications? It’s not a straightforward decision… that is why we need to meet in order to decide,” Bradshaw told reporters.
“There are concerns regarding extending the date, there are concerns regarding paper one, or removing paper one or the modifications to paper one. Many of the students have been asking for additional disclosure of the subject areas that are going to be coming on the papers. So there are varied positions being put forward by the various stakeholders. I think what CXC and the CARICOM ministers are having to do is to look at what is feasible, but also taking into account the mental health and wellness of the students as well.
“My view is that you have to put the views of the students and all of the stakeholders on the table and if there is consensus, then we will find balance,” she concluded. ([email protected])