Open Letter to Minister Ronald Jones On behalf of Teachers and Parents

Ronald Jones

Ronald Jones

A wholesome society must be built on a strong foundation made up first and foremost of a quality family unit, other attributes like a functioning law […]

and order system and one of BU’s favourites, a relevant education system must be part of the mix.

Arising from the latter two burning issues we have discussed several times in this forum have been the reluctance by the ministry of education to share analysis of examinations taken with the public on the performance of our schools   at the primary and secondary levels and the issue of compensation of teachers for CXC School-Based Assessment (SBA) work. Without a fact based approach to national debate regarding pertinent educational topics specifically and the relevance of education to personal and national development generally, there is a vacuum that is filled by the emotional debate.

The large slice of the national budget pie allocated to education post-Independence behoves stakeholders to elevate the discussion, identify solutions and take action. This is the process an enlightened people are expected to follow.

BU reached out to the head of the Barbados Secondary Teachers Union (BSTU) Mary-Anne Redman, who is very accessible via Facebook, to solicit her view on whether the MOE should make examination results/analysis public.

Redman’s response although concise is insightful and accords with BU and members of the BU family:

I don’t see why the examination statistics could not be made public but would you want to limit an evaluation of any school’s performance to examination results only?

Certainly, the function of a school should be to, in the final analysis, produce a productive, functional, well-rounded citizen …. Something that cannot be achieved or evaluated through examination successes alone.

BU took the opportunity to inquire about the status of the dispute between the MOE and the BSTU regarding the CXC/SBA matter.  

Again Redman’s response although concise was insightful:

The BSTU membership is continuing in its stand to supervise and assist students in completing their SBAs … they will however not be engaging in the correction and data entry aspects of CXC’s work without compensation…hope that helps.

It is evident going back to the Alexandra/Jeff Broomes conflict the BSTU leadership has little confidence in Minister of Education Ronald Jones, and rightly so. Ordinarily a reasonable expectation by a public interested in holding leaders accountable should have seen the dismissal of Jones. Redman’s response to the status of the CXC/SBA matter and Jones’ record confirms this is an issue simmering until next year and possibly beyond. Procrastination remains a defining characteristic of this DLP administration. The little we have observed of Redman, the leader of the BSTU does not suffer fools…

BU is of the view that many Barbadians and others beyond our shores do not fully grasp the issue from the perspective of the teachers. There is view held by some that the BSTU teachers need to get on with the job of assessing the SBAs.

Here is BU’s summary of the problem from the BSTU’s perspective based on interviews with sources:

The problem:

The demands on teachers by the MOE/CXC to complete SBA requirements are NOT considered part of normal duties by the teachers and is therefore deserving of compensation.

The argument for compensation:

· The CXC SBA is paper three of CXC’s complete exam in the subjects that carry a SBA component. CXC pays external examiners to corrects Papers 0ne and Two but expect teachers to correct Paper three (SBA) free of cost.

  • Preparing SBAs involves time separate and apart from classroom contact time. CXC recommends five periods per week per subject for two years. The reality is that in most schools time-tabling allows for only four lessons/periods per week, that, added to the four weeks lost in the fourth form because of Promotion Examinations and the nine weeks lost in the third term of the Fifth Form because of the actual CXC exams, there is much teaching time lost . To assist students in the completion of SBA work therefore teachers MUST be involved in lunch time, week-end, after school and holiday classes with their students.
  • Work is replicated for each student where teachers assess multiple drafts of the students’ work to facilitate their submission of the best end product. There needs to be an appreciation that the requirements and evaluation criteria of SBAs vary by subject.
  • Many teachers also supervise SBAs at both CAPE (Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination) and CSEC (Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate) levels and some do it for more than one subject area at each level. Then we have to factor the recent introduction of CCSLC (Caribbean Certificate of Secondary Level Competence) with accompanying SBA effectively means some teachers are supervising and correcting SBA’s for First through to Sixth form in respective school environments; an exercise that can see them supervising and correcting hundreds of SBA’s each year.
  • Can the preparation and correction of SBAs be seen as part of the teacher’s normal responsibility knowing that the SBA is a component of an externally set and moderated exam? CXC pays external examiners to correct samples of the SBA’s sent to them and these examiners actually send Reports on the teachers’ work back to the schools.
  • Is the BSTU’s position and others demanding compensation, correct in being guided by a precedent position given root by Cambridge and Oxford where compensation was paid to teachers for examination work done outside of normal work, namely examination labs? Also, CXC does already compensate some subject teachers for their SBA work e.g. Foreign Language, Theatre Arts, Music, Home Economics. Why the inconsistency in other subject areas?
  • It is challenging to use the SBA to evaluate student performance within the school because timeframes over which they cover vary and often conflicts with the time school grades are due. The position supports the BSTU’s position et al that correcting SBAs is added work.
  • SBA work has created a disparity between the workload of teachers who teach subjects with SBA components compared to those who do not and by the subjects which are compensated for their SBA components and those that are not. The principle of same work, same pay is being breached because of the anomaly created by the SBA exercise.
  • How does the MOE respond to complaints from teachers of poor marking schemes from CXC examiners? CXC proceeds to submit reports on the quality of work by students and the quality of assessment by teachers that are eventually used to evaluate teachers involved.
  • CXC has been moving the deadlines forward for the completion of SBAs with obvious impacts on teachers’ classroom time. The change in deadlines has been adversely affecting student submissions as well. The issue of moving deadlines comingles with the issue of many regional ministries that insist all submitted SBAs must be corrected however late.
  • Data entry of biographical and SBA marks was previously done by CXC personnel but has more recently been made the uncompensated responsibility of teachers. The CXC in draconian manner has imposed a $50.00 for every data entry mistake made by the teachers before a certain deadline and rises to two hundred dollars per mistake after then. Many teachers, none of whom are trained data entry persons, have been paying for these errors from their own pockets.

BU is hopeful the MOE and the BSTU will resolve the vexing issue of compensation for teachers to avoid the pain caused by repeated industrial action. Further, the MOE needs to address an important stakeholder in this matter, the parents of students preparing SBAs. The BSTU last year had a Town Hall meeting to discuss the matter with parents. It also met with the BNCPTA and individual school PTA’s to discuss the issue with parents and interested stakeholders. Why does Minister Jones subscribe to feeding from conflict? Why will the MOE not seek a meeting to discuss this matter with the BSTU and the CXC? Given his ministerial responsibly one would assume incremental improvement is a reasonable expectation.

How many Barbadians are aware the BSTU has the Alexandra issue of transferred teachers in the Courts and are awaiting Judicial Review of this matter. Is this another brouhaha on the boil? It seems the country has been unable to settle under this government, always some conflict or the other.

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2 Comments on “Open Letter to Minister Ronald Jones On behalf of Teachers and Parents”

  1. St George's Dragon November 13, 2015 at 6:52 PM #

    Possibly off topic – what is Ronald Jones’ middle name? If that seems an odd question see p47 of the Nation Friday 13th November.


  2. David December 9, 2015 at 6:16 AM #

    BU continues to monitor this issue. The BSTU held a meeting yesterday to update members on the SBA issue that is simmering. Can we expect this matter to explode next year because of procrastination as per usual.


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