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JEFF BROOMES: Bigger issues than top 10


JEFF BROOMES: Bigger issues than top 10

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ANOTHER YEAR has come and gone, and the reactions are as blasé as they have always been.

Some parents pump up their chests in vicarious glee. Others are left unnoticed and internalising unnecessary disappointment. 

The results of the annual age group test that is used for transferral from the primary to secondary stage of education have been released. The students with the top marks have been justifiably acknowledged and the expected commendations given. 

Unfortunately, this has stirred controversy, because this was not extended to the top ten. The quasi experts also shout from the mountain tops. They cover all bases in support of their obvious agendas with absolutely no professional supporting evidence.

I read and listen to the absolute absurdity of the criticisms.

Top ten? Why not the top five or 12 or 20? Do we realise that the student who gets 80 and an A is recognised as not doing as well as a student who gets 81 and an E? Ability to express must mean more.

The Minister of Education spoke about respecting parental choice. To my mind, this was a simplification of the issue. We know that parental choice, student performance (individually and on the broad scale) as well as available spaces inform the process of allocation.

This, however, is not the major problem with the age group testing that takes place for children 11 years and over. It has now even lost that name, because children at ten are now doing the test. This is nothing new though, since that was the age at which I wrote it.

I am an avowed supporter of age group testing, but believe that there is a better way for this particular test is used in allocating children to secondary schools. 

Yes, there are many children who are somewhat traumatised when having to write any exam. This is so for persons at the level of CXC and even at university. I know that the school-based assessments (SBAs) were introduced to help reduce the impact of a one-off test.

Projecting this age group test as determining students’ life chances compounds the issue. It also adds prima donna attitudes in some children who speak openly about good school and bad school. Educators must address this and not be distracted by the media frenzy over numbers.

There are issues to be addressed, but there must be political courage and strong social will to do the right thing. We need to improve the quality of what are seen as our weaker schools (infrastructure, teaching, accountability structures and much needed curriculum diversity).

We also need to directly address people’s mindset relative to one school versus another. There must be fundamental changes to the allocation process. We must bring a counter narrative to the view that a school is better simply because it was around longer than others. 

This is proven by results? Allocation ensures the results gap. If one school continues to get the best students, it will invariably give the best results. Teachers across the system were classmates at school and generally are much the same. They also attend the same university and the same teachers’ college.

This numbers game is nothing more than a red herring.

Let’s address school inequalities, take action that makes education more cost effective, giving better returns on investment and change the allocation process.

Jeff Broomes is an experienced educator, principal and community organiser who also served as vice president of the BCA and director of the WICB. Email: [email protected]