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THE OPEN HAVERSACK: School choices

Rhonda Blackman

THE OPEN HAVERSACK: School choices

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The Secondary School Entrance Examination, affectionately known as the Common Entrance Examination, is fast approaching and parents engage their cognitive control and value-based, decision-making networks as they make critical decisions on the choice of school they wish their children to attend.
These choices, I dare say, will make indelible impressions on the lives of their children and their future.
This is the period where some children are placed under significant pressure from parents, family members, some teachers and even peers. The life of some children no longer exists outside of books; the only thing that matters is books and more books. This is the period of no television or extracurricular activities; just extra lessons – yes, even lessons during the Easter break.
Added pressures come from within the schools, for some teachers only “teach to the test”. The teaching of the broad curriculum “goes through the window” and the main focus is placed on two subjects – mathematics and language arts. The main focus is on teaching the recurring concepts that are found on “the paper”.
It is the dream of every parent for his/her child to attend an older secondary school or rather, a “good school”. But what really is a good school? In my mind a good school constitutes one that has a broad and balanced curriculum and meets the diversity of needs of its students.
Due to the partial zoning system put in place in Barbados, parents or guardians have the opportunity to make their selection from the available list of schools based on the following guidelines: Choices 1 and 2 are open choices and the schools chosen may not necessarily fall within the zone. Schools chosen for Choices 3-9, however, must be listed in the zone correlating to the address on the form.   
This “good school” mentally has infiltrated the mind of some parents to such an extent that they go to all lengths to be in a particular zone so as to get their school of choice. Some parents are so desperate that they conveniently “change address” at this time or suddenly some children have relocated and reside at a particular relative.
I am one who supports full zoning – a child will go to the school that is in close proximity to his/her home. However, if there is to be full zoning, there cannot be a “pecking order” of schools. I reiterate, the curriculum of every school will need to be “broad and balanced” and must cater to the diversity of students attending.
Parents, the “good school” mindset must go for there is no such thing as a good or bad school. Many newer secondary schools continue to shine and produce students who are well-rounded, and are making a significant contribution to the development of this country. It is not the school the child attends, but what the child does at the school that matters. Make the correct choices.
• Rhonda Blackman is an educator, a reviewer with the British Research Journal and a member of the American Education Research Association.