Critiquing Sixth Form Performance At Harrison College And Queens College Versus The Others

Submitted by The Scout

Reverend Errington Massiah

There was an interesting article in this week’s Nation newspaper by Father Errington Massiah about the failure of two sixth form schools not gaining Barbados Scholarships. While what the Education Minister Ronald Jones said is true, he should have pointed out the flawed system used to determine the entry to secondary schools in Barbados.

As it stands Harrison College and Queens College take the cream of the crop, the other schools take the remainder. What is interesting is that for sixth form these two schools again take the top achievement students from all the other schools, it therefore stands that these two schools [Harrisons and Queens College] should take all or most of the Barbados Scholarships.

What must be realised is that all of those students who gained scholarship each year from Harrison College especially did not obtain their early secondary education at that school, instead some came from the other secondary schools, even schools which have a sixth form. Great respect is due to those students who achieve Barbados Scholarships and  Exhibitions who attended the lesser secondary schools, especially the newer ones.

Maybe it is time that Barbados focuses on offering scholarships in fields other than the academics. There are many children who are gifted in carpentry, masonry, culinary arts, graphics, other fine arts and other non-traditional scholarship areas that need assistance in furthering their studies.

In the international work world a highly qualified skilled person is more acceptable that a highly qualified academic. There are many persons with these bachelor or masters degrees who are producing below their qualifications. On the contrary, many lesser qualified skilled persons are in great demand. Maybe it is time the Ministry of Education to refocus the system by rebranding some of our secondary schools to skills schools. Perhaps only then will the playing field for skilled students to be granted Barbados Scholarship be levelled.

0 thoughts on “Critiquing Sixth Form Performance At Harrison College And Queens College Versus The Others

  1. @ Yardbroom

    The bushman saw that you were fishing on the off side so he threw in that googly to see what could happen….well played.

    @ Ping Pong
    Bush Tea repeats: Nothing in education in Barbados makes sense. Maybe it is the demons.

    @ David
    Until the Ministry of Education publishes the results of EACH school every year, and stop hiding up the mediocrity and mismanagement that is endemic in many parts of the system these things will continue.

    Do you know that there are schools in Barbados where each child is required to walk around every hour of every day with their bag and books – because the staff CANNOT control stealing?
    How can they control bullying, assault, bad behavior or any kind of discipline? ….or learning?

  2. How many Bajans go overseas to get a degree and never return home.

    How much of the half billion dollars from the diaspora is sent back by Bajans who got their degrees at taxpayers expense.

    The hard fact is that Barbados cannot provide full employment for its people and some have to work overseas.

    This whole issue of shifting the focus from academics to trades is not good. You have to have both.

    My experience in Canada is that the “managers” have degrees and the “workers” have diplomas.

  3. A staggering, yet little known fact is that US student debt (at over $1,000,000,000,000) is greater than total US Credit Card debt.
    Along with this US graduate unemployment is growing, and is already greater than our own total national %.

    It’s an unsustainable situation if looked at in educational terms.

    What a start in life, saddled with a huge debt from Day 1 of your working life.

    Just maybe this is more to do with conditioning and control than producing the balanced workforce necessary for smooth economic growth.

    I say it’s probably just another example of a failing model being forced to borrow from our children’s future.

  4. @Straight Talk

    are there any estimates as to the portion of the Barbados national debt that tertiary education (UWI) accounts for? Given that the fiscal deficit is growing, can it be said that our model is unsustainable as well? The poster Home’s point that work permit ads for fairly straight forward positions have been posted in the daily newspaper is instructive in more ways than one.

  5. Straight Talk wrote, “What a start in life, saddled with a huge debt from day 1 of your working life.”

    Imagine the alternative without a degree as a $5 an hour shop assistant or at a fast food joint flippin burgers.

  6. Hants, check out Youtube, graduates are now burger flipping because general college diplomas are totally disregarded by employers, who seem to prefer hands on expensive paper mill diplomas.

    Pity you believe high school kids only take menial jobs.

    Who do you think the vital trade apprenticeships are filled by?

    You too are exhibiting this outdated bias.

  7. @ Hants | September 1, 2011 at 9:06 AM |
    Imagine the alternative without a degree as a $5 an hour shop assistant or at a fast food joint flippin burgers.

    I’ve met several people without degrees who showed potential in their minimum wage jobs and went on to be managers, directors, executives of large firms. I’ve also met others without a degree who took applicable courses and exams and later went on to be accountants; others who joined the ranks of other professionals without the degree.

    I know of a young man who worked during his school vacation in a well established medical lab. When he graduated from high school the HR manager hired him as a trainee over several applicants with degrees and experience. Some have a degree just to say they spent time in a classroom and/or they went to college/univ and there are those who can’t apply what they were taught.

    No matter where one starts, it’s up to the goals, the career aspirations of the individual. Not everyone can start in high paying jobs. If horse reach, jackass would reach – one gallop at a time.

  8. Persons with skills still need the academics but not to the standard where this is the sole focus. I know of a young man who about five years ago migrated to the USA, when heleft Barbados, he was a bodywork apprentice, because of his superior knowledge of repairs to an entire vehicle, unlike the american who specialise in a particular part of the vehicle, he is now the workshop manager. He was sent to college at the company’s expense and he excelled in his class; he’s now on demand; had he remain in Barbados, he would just be ANOTHER bodyworkman. The government need to export specialist trained skills persons instead of just academically trained.

  9. Straight Talk wrote, “You too are exhibiting this outdated bias.”
    You are correct. I am 59 years old(outdated) and don’t even have a degree.

    So Straight Talk and Guest you can keep your children out of University so they can prove you right.

    I made a “mistake” with my youngest who wasted 4 years at U of T getting an honours degree. I should have consulted you two first an me an she mudda cudda save a whole lot of money.

  10. Some years ago, two men from Simpson Motors took two Suzuki Swifts and converted them to lemmos, when the Suzuki Motors bigboys saw them, they were very impressed that little Barbados had persons who could do such good work. There are many skilled bajan workers who need that extra push to excel, government need to supply this assistance and limit the academic Barbados sholarship to the ten best students who plan to further their careers in a field that would benefit the country.

  11. Hants, you are a mere stripling at 59 compared to me, and, from your previous posts, absence of a college education seems not to have hindered your career.

    However higher education may have trained you to notice I said “general” college diplomas, not honours as in the case of your admirable daughter.

    This degree in every household thinking is skewing the workforce contrary to real world conditions, unless you really want expensively trained burger flippers.

    In the hard times to come, who will we need more of – mediocre unemployable law and social science graduates or mechanics, engineers, farmers and seamstresses.

    We need high quality graduates in the fields of the future, not high numbers of graduates for the sake of it, they being complemented with well trained technical workforce.

    The balance is wrong, and it will become disappointingly more apparent.

  12. @The Scout: “The government need to export specialist trained skills persons instead of just academically trained.

    Here’s a better idea…

    How about training our people to be excellent at what they are naturally good at and enjoy doing, and then provide them with the job opportunities here in Barbados?

    Just a thought….

  13. Christopher Halsall wrote,

    “How about training our people to be excellent at what they are naturally good at and enjoy doing, and then provide them with the job opportunities here in Barbados?”

    Start a list. You first Halsall.

  14. @Hants: “Start a list. You first Halsall.


    I believe that Barbados (and the entire Caribbean) is woefully short of skilled Unix/Linux System Administrators. You know, Linux, and the LAMP stack, which runs most of the Internet.

    Micro$oft Certified System Engineers (MCSEs) abound. BTW, for those in the know, MCSE instead usually stands for “Must Consult Someone Experienced”….

  15. @Hants

    the concern (from my perspective as a parent of two secondary school children) is not that all university degrees are a waste of time but that great thought must be applied in choosing the path that is best suited for the prospective student/trainee given his aptitude, interests, career goals, industry requirements and available choices. It is my ever growing belief that just going onto UWI to do “any” degree to which one can gain admittance may lead to much frustration later on. Furthermore, many degree programs seem to lack currency in the ever competitive job market and other than facilitate a clerical position in the public service or in teaching, open few (and fewer) opportunities for the graduates. The issue is thus two fold; at the individual level in that the best choice is made and at the national community level in that there is a widening of educational and training pathways particularly in skill development and not just cognitive development with a concomitant attention to cost control in delivering that education and training.

    To add to Halsall’s list of areas in which Barbados could develop it’s human resource potential:
    1) Food production and agro-product processing particularly greenhouse use and associated technology, horticulture, sugar technology and cotton production.

    2) Fishing particularly boat building, fishing tackle production and fish processing. (Yuh mean the Taiwanese, Koreans and Chinese can come to the Caribbean to fish out our waters and we squabbling with Trinidad over a few flying fish?)

    3) Entertainment and recreational production and management. Not only musicians, singers, dancers, actors but studio and stage technicians, water sports promoters (think Brian Talma, dive operators, wind surfing, kite surfing) and other extreme sports.

    3) Industrial design particularly furniture design, house cabinetry (Italian kitchens selling in Barbados for $40000 and up).

    4) High technology devices and products. Believe or not, there is a company in Barbados fully staffed with Barbadians called Lenstec that makes lens for the human eye (yuh know when you have cataracts and got to get the lens replaced). Ask any locall ophthalmologist and you will be told these are among the best in the world. Intel once had a manufacturing plant here (but the building is now a shopping mall) and there used to be a company here that was world rated as a tool and die maker.

  16. Barbados should give grants and scholarships to study Industrial Design,Graphic Arts,Interior Design and Store Planning.

    These are professions that allow you to do the work from anywhere in the world.

    The long term plan should include the concept of using the internet to do work in other countries.

    Halsall; great start.

  17. @Ping Pong… To your points, I fully agree and support.

    Particularly point #1: “Food production and agro-product processing particularly greenhouse use and associated technology, horticulture, sugar technology and cotton production.

    We here in Barbados are blessed with more sunshine than most of the “developed” world. Heck, our country was initially populated because we could grow a lot of sugar cane to make others rich.

    It is a sad state of affairs that we cannot (or, at least, do not) now grow enough food to feed ourselves, and vast amounts of our land has fallen fallow….

  18. “We need high quality graduates in the fields of the future, not high numbers of graduates for the sake of it,”

    Agreed 100%.

    to the others who presented alternative study areas 1) do we have teh demand among students for these areas as a course of study? 2) are our secondary curricula catered to naturally lead to these options at higher levels and 3) are our industries, companies and government willing to “get with the times” so that these future driven professions have somewhere to flourish??

    Educational planning takes some time to bear fruit, and sad to say, if someone back in the 90’s missed the boat then we will see rough waters for at least another 4-5 year. Does anyone see hope in the new HR Development Strategy??

  19. @ Observing
    your post is bang on the money! The Human Resource Development Strategy is an excellent starting point.

    Note chapter 6 of the document that puts emphasis on applied science and technology, agriculture and the cultural sector in the context of invigorating job creation and national economic growth. This accords with my contribution on Sept. 01 to “Halsall’s List”.

    It is sincerely hoped that this strategy does not suffer the fate of another big “idea” – Edutec – which promised so much but actually delivered so little because there was no real commitment to change the way things are done and only an over bearing fascination with the use of jargon, cliches, buzz words, jingles and the like. It should be remembered that hundreds of millions of dollars was spent on that program too.

    • The challenge which developing countries face moreso is what should be the education strategy – 1) funding education and let individuals go where their interest is located or 2) should it be tied to the national economic strategy?

  20. @David.
    Your comment strikes at the heart of educational/national planning.The former being a social approach the latter being a manpower approach. Barbados has predominantly used the manpower approach with Edutech being a “mixed bag attempt” at providing for what students really need and are interested in. The difficulty is that the powers that be have difficulty articulating (or even seeing with any clarity) what our national economic strategy should be in light of 1) fluid labor market developments 2) anticipated human resource needs in a rapidly changing technological environment 3) changing educational needs, mindsets and paradigms and 4) the net negative impact of the social decline we are experiencing as a country on all of our sectors.

    Having said all of that, any planning, implementation or development calls for a clear VISION of where we are heading, a COMMUNICATION of how we intend to get there and a COOPERATION with all who can assist. Without either of these we’re just spinning in mud and will continue being satisfied with a few children getting full marks in common entrance, some schools getting a few scholars yearly and the statistical facade that masquerades “one graduate per household” as being a sign of real development.

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