Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the author(s) do not represent the official position of Barbados TODAY.
by Michael Ray
The Barbados Secondary Entrance Examination, otherwise known as the 11-Plus exam has been used as a red herring distracting attention away from the many deficiencies within the education system.
The distraction also helps to protect the livelihood and well-being of a number of stakeholders within the system.
The examination has been used and continues to be used to maintain the status quo rather than be the practical “fit-for-purpose” tool it is supposed to be.
The exam should ideally be used as an instrument to channel pupils on a pathway to acquiring jobs suitable to their talents, skills and abilities.
Currently, the exam is demonized as the nemesis for pupils coming from the lowest rungs of the socio-economic ladder, therefore many see the 11-plus exam as something to be destroyed and thrown away.
One does not use mauby to sweeten coffee.
When a motor vehicle is malfunctioning, one’s first response is to seek the services of a mechanic to affect repairs rather than hire a tow-truck to take it to the dump-heap.
The 11-Plus examination must be used for good and useful purposes and not abolished for unestablished and unsubstantiated reasons.
Any transformation of our education system must include the reshaping, redesigning and fresh application of the 11-Plus exam that makes it a functional and beneficial instrument in the hands of teachers and administrators.
If perchance it pleases abolitionists to get rid of the examination, they are reminded that an examination by any other name is still an examination.
The deficiencies in education are known by stakeholders within the various sectors of the system, from politicians to Ministry officials, from teachers to parents and not surprisingly pupils themselves who are usually the most disadvantaged.
Rather than detail a long list of deficits, a number of corrective measures will be offered to improve the system as well as create more and better opportunities for pupils who are likely to struggle along the way.
• The broadening of syllabus at the primary level to include Social Studies and a foreign language, preferably Spanish – To be tested at 11-Plus and Caribbean Primary Exit Assessment (CPEA).
• The broadening of syllabus at the secondary level to include studies in manual and vocational skills, such as Woodwork, Metalwork, Culinary Science, Mechanics etc – To be tested at Caribbean Secondary Examination
Certificate (CSEC) and Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations (CAPE).
• Training of all teachers in remedial education courses.
• Employment and utilisation of guidance counsellors to specifically guide students along a career path.
• Provisions allowing pupils to sit an Assessment and Allocation Examination at 9, 10, 11, 12, and 13 years old – Removing the dreaded “one-off” single opportunity for the less academically proficient.
• The establishment and effective usage of a comprehensive Performance/Productivity Appraisal System for teachers.
• The establishment of an autonomous and independent Teachers’ Service Commission.
• A Licensing/Registering regime for teachers as a professional body.
• Amendment of relevant rules and regulations vesting total responsibility for day-to-day matters of education in the hands of the Chief Education Officer, with the Minister of Education responsible for matters of policy only.
The above suggestions will go a long way in removing the bottlenecks and hurdles, level the playing-field and present greater and better opportunities to pupils who may otherwise fall through the cracks.