AWRIGHT DEN: Focus on strengths
In a few days, a few thousand children will sit an exam that will start the process of branding them as “duncy”, average or smart. Let’s not pretend, people; don’t act as if you are at a loss as to what I am talking about. You were branded, I was branded and they too will be branded, whether intentionally or unintentionally.
The belief today may not be as strong as it was in the 1980s and early 1990s, but we know that if these children don’t pass for Christ Church Foundation School, The St Michael School, Queen’s College, The Lodge School, Harrison College or Combermere, we as a society brand them as “dumb” or average. Don’t be fooled, these children are aware of this as well.
I have significant issues with this exam as it has the ability to negatively affect a child’s future, self-esteem, morale, pride and overall development, depending on which school they pass for. This exam is a significant contributor to many of the problems we are facing in today’s society.
It would be interesting to do a survey to check if there is a relationship between those youths on the blocks and those who go before the courts for specific crimes and the schools they attended.
All schools have challenging and deviant children. However, I believe there are a greater number of these types of students within what we as a society call the lower secondary schools. Some of you may act as if this is not true, but I am sure there are some secondary schools in this country that you would not like your child to attend and there are some schools that some teachers wouldn’t want to teach at either.
Many may argue that this exam has served them well, but I will argue that the world has changed; society has changed and our children have changed with it. As a result, our educational system needs to be reformed and the ways in which we assess our children adjusted.
The Common Entrance Exam assesses children only on their academic strengths in mathematics, English and comprehension. Students who are strong academically are at a greater advantage than those who may show strength in the technical, arts and sports area.
I am not saying the academic exam should be abolished but it should be part of a wide set of assessments used to place children into secondary schools.
Parents, I know that it is your desire to see your children succeed in the upcoming exams and I know some of you have done everything possible to reach that goal and I commend you for that.
I want to introduce to you to a new train of thought as you prepare to introduce your children to secondary school life.
We as a people have a tendency to be jack-of-all-trades and masters of none. Let me explain by sharing a short experience with you.
During a form level meeting, a parent said to me she wanted her daughter to attend my mathematics lessons classes since she had always failed mathematics. My immediate response was ”No”. This student was a very good art student and I encouraged the mother to focus on her daughter’s area of strength, which was art, and do everything possible to see her succeed in it. The mother took my advice and the student received a Grade 1 in art and is an art student at the Barbados Community College.
We as Barbadians love to focus our attention and resources on the weak academic areas yet we do not apply this same mindset to sports and the arts. For example, if a student brings home a report card that has six As, two Bs and two Fs, we send the child to lessons for the two Fs. While the child is trying to improve those Fs many of those As are becoming Bs.
However, if you recognize your child is talented in swimming, you do not send it to football practice – you send the child to swimming practice to further develop that skill. Same thing goes for the arts. If you recognize your child has a talent in playing the drums, you don’t send it to dancing lessons.
We know Oprah Winfrey for talking, we know Michael Jordan for throwing a ball in a hoop, we know Will Smith for acting and we know Bono for singing. Each of these has spoken to the world through their talents and has become masters at what they do.
Regardless of where your child goes, make sure you encourage him/her to become a master and not a jack.
But don’t worry. Society separates us after the Common Entrance Exam and brands us, yet the branded and the non-branded end up at the Barbados Community College and the University of the West Indies – strange, huh?