Two events occurred in November 2017 to stoke the concern members of the BU household have about the state of education in Barbados. On the 22nd of November news circulated about a fight at The Ellerslie School- recently renamed- between two boys, one reported losing a finger, chopped off with a cutlass and on the 28th November the same school officially launched its 6th Form program.
On the face of it many will agree that increasing 6th form programs on the island shatters a widely held perception about privileged access to 6th form education. For many years 6th form was accessible at the so called older secondary schools. There is nothing wrong with being proud of ones school tie, it becomes an issue if it serves to promote elitism and classism in a country. Let us not forget that registration to do pre-university programs via Barbados Community College (BCC) and Samuel Jackman Presod Polytechnic (SJPP) have been oversubscribed in recent years, a case of the demand being greater than supply. Minister Ronald Jones is on the right track if the objective is to make 6th form access widely available.
What troubles BU though is whether in the race to build a legacy before the next general election Jones and cohorts at the ministry of education are not compromising the standard of education at the newly installed 6th form schools and the wider education system.
If one engages stakeholders in the education system one gets the impression that there is a lack of strategic planning being engaged to ensure that 6th form expansion is effectively implemented to achieve the objective.
Are the 6th forms being rolled out based on the zone system for example?
Have all of the 6th forms been adequately outfitted with the tools and equipment necessary to optimally deliver the curriculum? There are examples of newly installed 6th form students having to travel to other schools to access lab and other facilities to execute the curriculum.
How has the expansion impacted teacher effectiveness at the schools, for example, what is the downside to drastically decreasing the noncontact hours of teachers? Will the management of the school space be adversely impacted? This is important in a school environment where there are concerns about rising deviance. This week the Gabby Scott, Chairman of Foundation School Board expressed concern at the school’s speech day about bad behaviour by school children in the system.
How has the rollout of 6th forms by a cash poor government impacted? If some teachers have to deliver classes from 1st to 6th forms, is this the ideal condition?
Should the ministry implement a 6th form program at school where the physical plant cannot accommodate the program and consequently there must be ‘floating classes’?
Are we happy that with the enrolment number in 6th forms classes at some schools where the numbers are small and a few subjects have had to be eliminated?
To reiterate the point, we have no problem with expanding access to 6th form if done effectively and efficiently and not hurried by a general election timetable.
On a related point about education.
The BU household is appalled at the comment reported in the local press attributed to Minister Ronald Jones that he felt sorry for a father who recently visited the Foundation and Deighton Griffith schools and was arrested and remanded to Dodds after threatening school management with a cutlass.
I know that young man very well and I have never known him to be what he seemed to have demonstrated, so there had to be some catalyst that would have caused that. I think that some of our parents need guidance on how to handle conflict and to him that would have been a conflict. Leaders of schools have to be equipped to bring calm when a person comes hostile.
“From those to whom privilege and opportunity are given, we have the right to expect much.”
― John Vasconcellos
Is this where we have descended?