A reform paper on the move towards abolishing the Common Entrance Examination is now before Prime Minister Mia Mottley and a decision on the way forward is imminent.
Deputy Prime Minister Santia Bradshaw made the disclosure on Tuesday as she insisted that although scrapping the exam, officially known as the Barbados Secondary Schools’ Entrance Examinations (BSSEE), remains on the card, plans to support the change were to be finalised.
“I am well aware as well that the paper on the reform has been finally completed and is before the Prime Minister for consideration and then onto Cabinet, so I expect that those decisions would be made very shortly,” Bradshaw, a former Education Minister said.
Prime Minister Mottley had said in May that the Ministry was yet to complete the final reform paper and any education reform is “at least a two or three year process”.
“Whenever the paper comes and whenever the consultations start and whenever the decision is settled, then you still need to have a long lead up in order to execute and to have a seamless transition as long as possible,” she had said then, revealing that the changes could entail a middle school arrangement for first and second formers that would allow them to decide what school they want to attend at 13 and 14, rather than at 10 and 11.
In the meantime, Bradshaw said, the Ministry of Education is making a bigger push for greater subject specialisation in secondary schools.
“The change we want to make in terms of the transformations is not an overnight process. People feel very near and dear to the Common Entrance Examination; it is what we all have grown accustomed to, and in order to make that transition you have to change mindsets,” she explained.
“We have been talking to the principals trying to get them to understand that we have to create specialist institutions, looking at what their strengths and their weaknesses are, so that children and parents start to make decisions on which school to go to, not on the basis of which grandparent went to school there but they start to make decisions on the fact that they have an interest or a skill in a particular area.”
Bradshaw made the comments as she visited the Springer Memorial School with Ministry of Education officials, at the completion of Tuesday’s primary school exit examinations.
She congratulated students for their hard work and perseverance amid the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic over the past two years.
Bradshaw said the Ministry of Education had done a lot of preparation leading up to examination day, including providing students and parents with any needed last-minute assistance.
However, she stressed, most of the work was done by the just over 3 000 students who sat the BSSEE despite the odds.
“We talk a lot about the Common Entrance Examination and its usefulness in some ways, and also the intention obviously to be able to move away from the examination. The truth of the matter is that these children have worked very hard over the last two to three years in preparations for this examination in very difficult circumstances, through a pandemic. They have had to work online, they have had to have shortened days and hours in terms of school, and they have demonstrated, above all else, their resilience in terms of being able to participate in education,” the Deputy Prime Minister said.
“I really want to tip my hat to the students who have been able to fare through this period.”