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EDITORIAL: Public deserves disclosure, Jones


EDITORIAL: Public deserves disclosure, Jones

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THE PUBLIC DEBATE on the Barbados Secondary Schools Entrance Examination (Common Entrance) is futile. Still, it is an issue which captures the collective imagination of the entire society, which is why the decision by the Ministry of Education to scrap naming of the top ten students may have caused some disquiet.

That a private sector company could subsequently make public the names of the top 20 was more than passing strange, but what was jaw-dropping was the dominance of private primary schools in that list, even if the number is minuscule overall.

These results would not have been comforting for a public which places a high value on education. The results suggest that those from supposedly well off backgrounds seem to be having a clear advantage.

The release of those results would have also caused many people to question the performance of public primary schools, even if a review of the total results may show such anxiety is unwarranted. But perception is greater than reality.

Minister of Education Ronald Jones should now fully appreciate the danger of withholding information. The public wants full disclosure, supported by detailed analysis, highlighting weaknesses and strengths. This goes beyond bragging rights between private and public primary schools; it is about building the entire education system from nursery to secondary level.

This is why we cannot only celebrate the top-tier performers while we ignore that significant number with fundamental weaknesses whom we promote along with their problems to another level. We cannot afford a growing number of our children remaining on a path of low achievement, falling further behind each year while in school. This will only lead to other significant challenges in the wider society.

We must not delude ourselves as a nation that the performance of our students in the Common Entrance exam and subsequently CSEC and CAPE tests is acceptable. Too many by the end of the secondary school stage are still only functionally literate in reading, writing and mathematics. They would basically only have fulfilled the requirements to be kept in school until the mandatory school-leaving age of 16. It is evident that flexible learning arrangements must be promoted to meet the needs of individual learners.

The Ministry of Education has a legal responsibility  to ensure that this country’s school age children, at all levels, are properly prepared so they can be equipped to compete in today’s knowledge economy. To that end, the ministry must carry out its mandate by designing a 21st century curriculum to better prepare our students for both life and work. The existing system cannot carry us forward.

Mr Jones is not shy of speaking. He must therefore address the issues related to an overhaul of the entire educational system, including raising the status of teaching as a career choice to attract more of the brightest and best people. The changes cannot happen soon enough.