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Barbados Uncensored

Beyond the News, Inside the Issues

Three Rs Tumble in Barbadian Schools: Time to Play the Blame Game?

Oct 27, 2022

According to a BT article of Tuesday October 25, President of the BUT (Barbados Teachers Union), Rudy Lovell, has disclosed that some Barbadian children entering secondary schools cannot write their own names or even form letters. 

For the record, the main constituents of the BUT are primary school teachers.

It is well-known and “noised abroad” that we have reading problems in Barbados’ primary schools. But what may not be so well known or understood is that those problems extend all the way to secondary schools.

As the Common Entrance or 11-Plus Exam results show consistently, we also have a problem with Mathematics or the so-called third R (“Rithmetic’).  So, all three R’s have taken a hit and would appear to be tumbling out of control.

Something is terribly wrong with education in our country and we insist that it is time to play the blame game!

Barbados Uncensored has learned that teachers at more than one secondary school, have had to read the controversial IDB survey to first formers so that they could complete it! It has also been disclosed that teachers in some secondary schools routinely have to read end of term exams for students.

We repeat: Something is terribly wrong with education in our country. Somebody has to be held responsible for facing and fixing it.

In the same way that there was / is an outcry against the controversial IDB survey, there ought to be an uproar against the failure of school children to master the three R’s. 

But this is Barbados. We major on the minors (no pun intended) but somehow the minors still get left behind (pun intended).  

We agree that the educational “system” in Barbados needs an overhaul.  But the “system” we are referring to here is not the existence of primary, secondary and tertiary levels of education.  Nothing wrong there so we wait to see the details regarding how these “academies of excellence” proposed by the current Mia Mottley administration will solve the problem.

Neither is it the existence of the 11-Plus per se, the long-standing method of transfer from primary to secondary school, the problem. On this point, Mr. Lovell is perhaps correct.

If creating a middle school, another proposal of the government, postpones the transfer to “secondary school” then the 11-plus could be retained for reasons adduced in the next three paragraphs

The current 11-plus is by no means a desirable educational test instrument. It is not for several reasons, not the least of which is the fact that it tests “formal operations” at an age when most children appear to be still at Piaget’s “concrete operational stage”.  

In essence, the results of the current 11-plus simply tell us the extent to which children have reached that formal operational stage AHEAD OF SCHEDULE if we accept Piaget’s view that the formal operational stage STARTS from age 12!

Our hypothesis is that, all other things being equal, the more intelligent that child is the greater the likelihood that he or she will be able to perform at the formal operational stage at 11 years old although as stated above, that stage starts from the age of 12!

Though it is fashionable to do so, let us not dare to blame the recent pandemic.  As Mr. Lovell has intimated, this problem existed long before the spiked monster reached our shores. Let’s get to the root of the problem.

Common sense says that if a child cannot read and write he or she should not leave primary school.  However, logistic practicality says that if we do this, some primary schools would burst at the seams because there would not be enough space to hold the retainees!

Parents and concerned citizens need to get their teeth into this matter. That means asking questions about primary school programming. By “programming” we mean basic things like time-tabling and teaching methods.

The hard questions that need to be asked about Primary school programming include: How much time is allocated to reading in the Primary school plant? Is that time enough? How many different subjects do children have to cope with at the Primary school level?

Ever so often we hear that this or that needs to be taught in school, for example, tourism.   If you pack so many things into a five-day school week something vital is going to suffer.

We have heard two things from Mr. Lovell and his union. First of all, their perception of the cause of the problem and secondly (and more importantly) their recommendations for SOLVING the problem. 

Too often when there is a problem in this country, the buck gets passed to someone else and like the Mission Impossible directorate, those in the thick of the mix disavow responsibility for the problem. Let’s hope this is not the case with this issue.



One thought on “Three Rs Tumble in Barbadian Schools: Time to Play the Blame Game?”
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