Well-known retired educator, Jeff Broomes, has joined recent calls for Government to take a fresh look at the Barbados Secondary Schools’ Entrance Examination (BSSEE), familiarly known as the Common Entrance or 11-plus exam.
Earlier this week Professor of Education and Director of the School of Education at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Cave Hill Campus, Joel Warrican, said that the exam was not fit for purpose. He contended Barbados and the rest of Caribbean are subjecting Class 4 children to an assessment system that is racist in its origin. Last week a similar call was made by former Member of Parliament for St Michael South East, Hamilton Lashley.
However while Broomes was not as critical of the exam, he told Barbados TODAY that the time had come for it to be replaced by more continuous assessment. He is of the view that testing for transition to secondary school should begin at Class 1.
“The Common Entrance is just another exam and exams take place at various stages of everyone’s life and the idea of it being racist is something I don’t see. I have never been a big fan of one-off tests. I believe the Common Entrance should be a cumulative test. I believe there should be a national test at Class 1, followed by remediation work in Class 2.
“You then do another national test at Class 3 and then the final test at Class 4, which would account for 50 per cent of the overall mark,” he said.
Broomes, who is a long time author of Common Entrance workbooks, is of the view that should Government adopt his method, children will be able to correct their weaknesses long before they enter secondary school.
On Tuesday Warrican told Barbados TODAY that even though the demographic makeup of Barbados is predominantly black, the elitist construct of the Common Entrance Exam has not changed.
“We have kept it. We hear officials say to us that it is the fairest way to ensure that our people get the best education. Well, who are our people? Is it just the few persons who are going to do extremely well and benefit from the so-called top secondary schools? What happened to the large percentage of students, who through this exam, are sent to certain schools? They are not well supported, and they end up quite often becoming a stress on our society,” said Warrican.
However Broomes is convinced that the elitist structure that existed many years ago in the secondary school system, only now exists in minds of parents. He argued that all secondary schools have equally qualified teachers and teach an identical syllabus. He therefore suggested that Government no longer give parents a choice of secondary schools but instead insist that students must attend the secondary school closest to where they live.
“This notion of people leaving the parish of St Lucy and driving to St Michael is nonsensical. All the teachers at Barbados’ secondary schools have attended the same training college and have attained the same qualification. We must head in a direction where children attend the school closest to their home and in that way the profile of all schools are lifted,” he stressed.