Submitted by Neil Watchman
The Barbados Community College has managed to gain a meagre two scholarships of the total of 45 scholarships and exhibitions awarded. Not surprising, since the Minister of Education has made it clear by his periodic mouthings, that the Sixth Form School is the way to go. Of course, the big winner is the Caribbean Examination Council, whose CAPE exams these sixth form students will be preparing. Good for them and their parents.
In the meantime, the BCC has been limping along, neglected and for evermore under-resourced even in good financial times. Its main asset has been its dedicated teachers who have given beyond the call of duty. Not the same, though with its senior administration (Principal, Deputy principal and Registrar) which, with a mix of appointees by seniority and political affiliation, has yet to constitute a stable, competent team to handle the running of the institution. We are told that the College is currently without a principal as Dr. Austin, who was appointed some eighteen months ago, has not sought reappointment. In other words, folks; the College has gone through two principals in as many years.
In 2016, the institution applied to the Barbados Accreditation Council for registration. We understood that this is the phase that precedes accreditation. Members of the public, I am sure, will be surprised to learn that the BCC is not an accredited tertiary institution; for all its fifty or so years of contributing to the higher education, it has not yet met muster.
Added to this, powers in the Ministry of Education, for various reasons, have always treated the BCC as a second-class academic tertiary institution after UWI. That is, until now that university fees have increased prohibitively putting the vision of “a graduate in each household” in jeopardy.
We believe that blame for this state of affairs can be laid fairly and squarely on back of the series of lame-duck Principals and Deputy Principals that have been appointed over time; people without any management training to speak; people who simply administered the system but had no vision of where it could and should go. The last two Boards under Stephen Broome hired a number of top level staff including a Building and Facilities Manager, a Human Resources Manager and a Chief of Security. As a local visitor to Carifesta, you cannot help but notice the new signage and new toilet facilities. Kudos to Building and Facilities.
But the governance system has not kept pace with the physical improvements. Sources indicate that the Human Resources Manager position has turned over twice in the last three to five years, the most recent resignation being effective earlier this month.
Of greater concern is academic governance which is in such a state of affairs, that the Barbados Accreditation Council, we have been told, has granted the institution a one year registration rather than the normal three year period.
We have also learned that several factors contribute to this state of affairs. One of the most crucial, that could go some way in explaining the dismal performance on Barbados Scholarships this year, is the downward adjustment of its grading system. According to the BCC Student Handbook, which until recently was available online, the institution moved its pass mark from 50% to 45% in 2011. To my mind this is a backward step but one which was evidently okayed by the Board of Management which can hardly be expected to do better, given that it is virtually a one-man affair.
We are also learning that the College has made its provisions for so-called supplemental exams so generous that all a student has to do is earn about 40% to be eligible. Also, if the student has missed a final examination, he or she can also “do a sup” as the students like to say. There are no controls over, for example, on whether a student missed an examination for valid reasons, such as illness; once the student finds a sympathetic ear, he or she can find a Tutor or a Senior Tutor and command a supplemental examination.
So, if you are looking for a good reason why the BCC’s performance in the recent scholarships has been so dismal, look no further than the state of their academic governance.
As a tax paying parent and a past student of the BCC, I find it hard believe that it has sunk to this state and apparently is still sinking, if the reports coming out of the institution are anything to go by. The impression we get is that academic discipline and student behaviour have been at an all-time low. Reports of drug use and general uncouthness to tutors have also been on the increase over the last year or two.
Perhaps the BCC is ripe for investigation by an independent commission so that tax payers can get some feel for how their ever increasing tax dollar is being spent at this institution. Until the BCC gets its house in order, parents are perhaps better off sending their children to Dr. Browne’s Sixth Form College or one of the increasing number of sixth form schools that our good friend, Mr. Ronald Jones, has set up.