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AWRIGHT DEN!: 11-Plus issues

Corey Walcott

AWRIGHT DEN!: 11-Plus issues

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ON TUESDAY, just about 4 000 children sat an exam that, unfortunately, will commence the process of branding them as duncy, average or smart. In 1994, I went through this branding process and 19 years later it continues.
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 “the top 5 schools”, we as adults brand them. Actually, children brand each other too.
I am one who has 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.
Many may argue that this exam has served us well and should continue, but I will argue that the world has changed; society has changed and our children have definitely changed with it. As a result, our educational system needs to be reformed and the ways in which we assess our children adjusted.
A few months ago there was a picture being shared on Facebook that generated quite a bit of interest and discussion. The picture represented a classroom, and the students, who were all animals, were getting ready to take a test. I can’t remember all the animals that were waiting to take the test, so for argument sake, let’s say there was a monkey, a snake, a cheetah and a bear. The test was to see who could climb the tree the fastest.
It is without doubt that the monkey had the greatest advantage and would probably score the highest on the test since that is what it did well. Although the other animals would be able to take the test, they would not perform as well as the monkey since it was an unbalanced and unfair test.
If this test was used each year to determine the king of the jungle, it would be fair to assume that the monkey would always be king. If the test was to see who could get from one distance on land to the other the fastest, then the monkey would not perform as well as it did on the other test.
This story reminds me of our Common Entrance Examination, often also referred to as the 11-Plus.
The exam assesses children only on their academic strengths in two subjects. Students who are strong academically are at a greater advantage than those who may show strength in the technological, arts and sports areas.
I am not saying we should abolish the academic exam, but it should be part of a broader set of assessments used at this transitional point.
Once you are a student, you will have to sit many exams as you progress through you formal educational life. Being exposed to exams and the atmosphere surrounding them at an early age is good but it should not be used as the only form of testing.
For instance, students can be tested via written and practical assessments in sports, the arts and information technology and informed that the last exam will be similar to the 11-Plus Exam. The final grade could be broken down in this way: 40 per cent for the 11-Plus Exam and 20 per cent each for the other three exams. I believe this would give students whose strengths are in other areas a fairer and more equal opportunity.
Parents, I know that it is your desire to see your children do their best in the exam, and I know some of you have done everything possible to help them reach that goal. I commend you for that.
Let me leave you with a question. Don’t you find it amazing that society separates us after Common Entrance and brands us, yet all of us end up at Barbados Community College and the University of the West Indies together – strange, huh?
• Corey Worrell is a former Commonwealth Youth ambassador.