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JEFF BROOMES: Replace 11-Plus with national testing


JEFF BROOMES: Replace 11-Plus with national testing

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THE ANNUAL Common Entrance Examination has come and gone. The post examination fancy lunches, beach trips and other celebratory activities have taken place, and that’s it!  This year, the usual hype was taken above and beyond the usual unnecessary focus. 

On the radio, we had knowledgeable and quasi-knowledgeable people giving tips and advice while asking the students not to be nervous. You build up the pressure with the almost daily public “guidance” and then say not to feel pressure. The ultimate contradiction.

Annually, we see large groups of children traversing the nation. They have to wake very early, get home too late while not being able to stay for after school activities. This mass movement also places an expensive and undue burden on public transport (ignore the free bus fares)!

Recently, the president of the Barbados Secondary Teachers Union highlighted a situation where students at one school were functioning at about ten years below their age level. I thank her for voicing what I have complained about for the past four years. 

It is well known that a significant number of children leave school with absolutely no certification. I challenged this situation at the last school at which I worked when I discovered that more than 60 per cent of the annual school leavers were in this category. Really.

A direct result of what the BSTU president spoke about and what I sought to address is deep student frustration that ultimately leads to indiscipline. Our unmitigated focus on the CEE while projecting only the high flyers, does nothing to address this.

School leadership at both the primary and secondary levels is culpable. The supervisory arm of the Ministry of Education is also failing and must see its role as ensuring that annual school plans and implementation actions are pedagogically sound, properly aligned and data driven.

We need also to stop the pretence that children who enter secondary school with an intake mark of 20 or 30 can proceed to CXC at the same pace and time as those who enter with 75, 85 or 90. It is a fallacy that simply undermines the real purpose of a liberal education.

I have never known a student who struggled with no sight of success who did not get frustrated. It may be a truism but, “if I don’t know, don’t understand it and don’t see its relevance, I will ignore it”. They don’t simply ignore, they shift to something less positive.

We must stop the talk and the big hype about one examination with its destructive use as an allocation tool. I support purposeful testing. Hence, I propose a policy where national tests take place in class one and the data used for remediation and skill strengthening in class two.

Such national testing should again occur at class three to confirm the success of our corrective measures. These two marks as well as the test at class four should then define the student’s academic profile and assist in determining the move to the secondary level. It is simply a structure for the highly accepted approach of Continuous Assessment!

We say it does not matter what school the student attends, but that is only so if those weaker children are given assistance. This should begin in first form where they should be allowed a foundation year with a specific and reduced programme before being placed in an actual first form. Work with them there rather than superannuate them early and uncertificated later.

As the identified students (and others) go through school, there must interventions with area specific small group tutoring, in the basic areas. They must also be allowed to benefit from the skill and values developing areas such as CCSLC and CVQ that are on all secondary curriculums.

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]