Education Transformation – Substance or Smoke?

Submitted by Observing

Barbadians were treated to a 3 hour show last week launching proposals for education transformation aimed at “revolutionsing” the way we school our children.

From the outset let me state 3 undeniable facts.

  • Change is needed.
  • Anyone with enough balls to try something should be commended.
  • Most of the ideas are good ones albeit a tad dated.

Now here are three other facts.

  • The Common Entrance is not to blame for where we are. It’s a nice red herring, but that’s all.
  • We have been here before. Ironically, with some of the same people.
  • We are not addressing the core issues in education/society which impact and effect the majority of our young people.
  • Without going into too many specifics a few points to take note of based on a reading of the proposals:

1. Of the 25 proposals for Primary School, 20 of them have already been proposed or tried during the period 1995 – 2005. In other words, nothing new, just a rehash of necessary but improperly executed policies and ideas.
2. Of the 9 proposals for Secondary School, 6 of them have already been proposed or tried during the period 1995-2015. In other words, nothing new, just a rehash of necessary but improperly executed policies and ideas.
3. Regarding the “new” curriculum, a trip through the time tunnel to 1999 will show that these are almost word for word what was established under Curriculum 2000.
4. Regarding special needs and inclusion, this was supposed to be national policy since 1995. Why more hasn’t been done is an open question.

Now regarding the new proposals, ambition is aspirational, reality is rooting. Save this post and in 2 years time remember I said that the proposed “Middle Schools” by another name cannot and will not lead to the proposed objectives. Actually, they will present more confusion and dislocation. A few simple layman unanswered questions are

1. How will the transition be done?
2. What assessment will be used to move to Senior Schools?
3. How will we move from the old system to the new one?
4. How will staff be reorganized?
5. How will we standardize what has never been before?
6. Why are the current “top” schools still going to be the ones with an “academic” focus?
7. What consideration has been given to the peculiarities of this age grouping?

Lest we are uncertain, this is the same group that botched the “transfer” of principals and has yet to admit anything about an IADB survey. Additionally, 28 years, 4 Prime Ministers and 7 Ministers of Education later, much of what was already proposed still has to see the light of day. They simply could not get it done (or chose not to). A simple question is, do we honestly have faith in the powers that be to see and push this through?

Lastly what else is needed? The presented proposals and ideas are all needed, but, they miss some of the most important components necessary for “real” transformation. These include
1. Putting round pegs for round holes. The wrong persons in the right place will always give the wrong result.
2. Decentralising administrative processes. Once upon a time Principals and teachers had autonomy and power. Alas for the good old days
3. Revision of the laws governing education. A decades old legislation cannot govern a modern system.
4. Depoliticisation of the education system. I should say depoliticisation of the entire public service!
5. Adequate, appropriate and actual financing of the sector. Money talks, bullshit walks. All the ideas in the world are for naught if not properly resourced,
6. A greater focus on the psycho-social and developmental issues of students from day one More guidance counselors and social workers are urgently required. Academic success can never be achieved in an environment of social and emotional confusion.
7. A shift in the balance of finances to early childhood education as well as at risk schools. An early foundation avoids later problems. Also, let’s be honest, some schools need more resources than others.
8. An effective use of technology for education management rather than the piecemeal superficial fluff that happens now. This will be a post for another time but suffice to say, on a scale of 1 to 10, how schools use technology is barely scraping a 4 despite Covid and Edutech.

Closing thoughts
Kudos and commendations: The transformation push is a much needed effort BUT needs to be properly discussed, debated and constructively critiqued lest we repeat the same mistakes of two decades ago. This should happen outside of the fireworks and fancy productions. Hats of to the government for starting the discussion.

Sensibility must guide the day. Though politics and talking points are best for “the powers that be,” those of us on the ground and our children/grandchildren are the ones who will feel it most. Reform has the potential to impact multiple generations.

Reality: The society and generations of 2000-2010 are not the ones we have now. Ideas from a time past have their place but, will only have minimal impact if the core areas which need addressing based on present realities are not addressed.

Implementation deficit: Barbados is an expert in good ideas and bad or zero implementation. Edutech is a classic example. Good ideas plus bad implementation leads to eventual failure.

I pray we learn from the lessons of the past and place our children first above all else. If we do, we will be ok. If we don’t as it seems we aren’t, the inevitable is just around the corner.

57 thoughts on “Education Transformation – Substance or Smoke?

  1. Too many have concerns about our ability to efficiently implement what is proposed. We fear the fallout more than what is possible because of the need to implement changes to be relevant in a 21st century and beyond..

  2. The fact remains that no one likes change. Then the excuses come like 1) we are not fully equipped 2) we need training
    And of course the Unions will step in and argue for the sake of arguing.

    The problems with the school system is the lack of morals coming out of the homes. Kids have no guidance. No respect for authority.

    I agree with the writer, we must commend the effort but not using examples of the past. Times have changed and the work force no longer respects their jobs.

    Too many Heads of various departments and Unions to ever get any kind of agreements or any strong team to see changes through to the end.

    Same sh&$ only re-wrapped and presented as new

  3. Well, we’re here again!

    Something wrong, is too deeply rooted in a society which wants to continue to believe that somebody else’s culture should be its.

    That regardless of how education reform is approached certain structures must be givens.

    These include a hierarchy which has certain places as the crème de la crème.

    That the education system must determine class formations, not national development outcomes.

    Our point is that these underlying structures are loved by the masses which don’t benefits as much as the elites who think they, themselves, do.

    It would be impossible to have all 5 year olds learning Swahili or Chinese, for example.

    Or forgetting O and A levels, or their equivalents, and. Imbuing an industrial ethos. Basing success in small group as a result of producing knowledge with measurable applications to development. Making things with hands or minds!

    This writer has seen Iranian high schoolers designing drones, for example.

    And on and on.

    For the British have won and unless events external make it impossible for this ‘pig food’, as Socrates called it, of an education system, 1000 years from now, the status quo will be well preserved.

    • @Observing

      What are these initiatives targeting primary schools? Is Lovell of BUT on record stating the proposals do not adequately target/transform primary level education?


  4. Would have to find the link to the document for you. Not quite sure when Lovell said that, but, a common refrain is the proposals are large on “show” but small on “specifics”. High on ideas but low on feasibility. Seems like all the education unions have bought the bag and are hoping that the pig is actually in it.

    • @Observing

      BUT’S NOD
      By Colville Mounsey

      Government’s proposed overhaul of the education system within the next two years has received the blessing of the country’s largest teachers’ union.
      At the same time, president of the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT), Rudy Lovell, is cautioning that the initiative could be a lot to undertake in the proposed time frame. He said they would have preferred that the reforms started with the primary school system before attempting them in secondary schools.
      “Let me say that it is a bit ambitious. Nevertheless, despite our preference to have the process start in the primary school system, the Barbados Union of Teachers is on board and willing to participate in the process. If there are any issues along the way, we will inform the ministry and, hopefully, they will be rectified,” Lovell said.
      “When I say ambitious, I am referring to the level of work that must go into the reform proposals. The fact is that the work is a lot.
      “There is still the need for thorough research, there are committees that still must meet and return with their findings, and this could all be a bit challenging. We are hopeful, however, that it can be done and will be successful, but we will wait and see,” he added.
      On Thursday, Government announced that, pending public approval, the sweeping plan would include abolition of the Common Entrance Examination, introduction of a new mode of transferring students from primary to secondary school, a new and updated curricula, construction of two new schools and a two-stage secondary structure consisting of junior and senior colleges of excellence, earmarked to start in academic year 2025.
      Outlining the key points of the reform, which has been titled Reimagining Education In
      Barbados: A Bright Future for Every Child, Chief Education Officer Dr Ramona Archer-Bradshaw said that should the proposals gain approval in January 2024, entrance to secondary school would be determined by a feeder school system, with a builtin appellate mechanism.
      Lovell said the union was taking the wait-and-see approach to whether the alternative to the Common Entrance would be successful. He added a new system would require retraining of instructors and this cost should be borne by Government.
      “There is no doubt that there is a need for reform and what is being proposed is an alternative to what currently occurs, but whether it will work, only time will tell.
      “One of the things that we argued for is the training of teachers because if you are going to reform the education system, there is a need for training across the board. We believe that this training should be mandatory and free for all teachers,” he said.
      He praised the Ministry of Education for being amenable to the suggestions put forward during the consultations with stakeholders, noting that it was likely more changes would be made as the public consultation phase began.
      “We are ready and willing to continue with the consultations. The ones held thus far have been fruitful. In the initial stages there were some things that we did not agree with but as the consultations went on, the ministry would have seen the need to make the changes and they have been continuing to make changes as suggestions come forward. So, I believe that once the process goes to the public, there may be more changes,” he said.

      Source: Nation

  5. @David
    Got it. Will email you the proposals.

    Never fear though. Despite all the “pledged” support I suspect this government’s recent trend of reversing decisions in order to “wheel and come again” will also apply here. It took 5 years to come up with “proposals” but yet we intend to execute them in 2. Laughable.

    It’s unfortunate that education may have to be one of those sacrificial lambs as well in the quest for speedy progress.

  6. Much ado about nothing.

    A simple look at the management skills of this Ministry- in EVERY single matter in the last three years, tells us that they are INCAPABLE of accomplishing something like positive reform.

    If you cannot manage the transfer of a few teachers….
    If you mishandle a simple matter of the IDB survey outcry…

    Steupsss… dun wid dat!!
    STOP DIGGING nuh!!!

    • @Bush Tea

      When a society and by extension people lack confidence in the leadership, there will be negative consequences. We can discuss, distill, slice and dice these proposals all we want but if people lack the confidence and complementary self esteem, it will be an academic exercise.

      In the land of the blind, a one eye …

    • Much as it pains me to write this I agree with Bushy, this current team (including the Minister) is inept and unable to lead any successful transition to a new beginning.

  7. Sarge..
    Bushie apologizes for any pain caused to you by our agreement…
    Rest assured however, that it will not happen often…
    ….because, Bushie is usually right.

    @ David
    It is not that people ‘lack confidence in leadership’.
    There is NOTHING that Bajans would like better than to have leaders in whom they can have confidence.

    The problem is that the people lack COMPETENCE in leadership…. and even with the most expensive PR in the world, the most rancid of their yard poultry is being forced to lose confidence…

    A bunch of emotion-driven ‘leaders’ appealing to party loyalty can only go so far…. Even Santia has now fallen into the trap (with that ill-advised speech a few days ago).
    Clearly, these are TOUGH assignments – requiring WISE leadership….

    …and Boss, ‘WISE’ has ONLY ONE origin…..

  8. All of Bishie’s renderings presuppose a belief in foolishness as a necessary and sufficient precondition.

    And yet, there are all kinds of systems functioning quite well and as untethered as can be. lOL

    • “All of Bushie’s renderings presuppose a belief in foolishness as a necessary and sufficient precondition.”
      Excellent summary of the bushman’s inclination Pacha…

      For the ‘foolishness’ of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the ‘weakness’ of God is stronger than human strength.

    • How will vocational education be delivered by Tvet and integrated into the school system especially at the primary level. Much of our physical plant is in bad shape as well as skilled teachers to deliver. Waiting to hear more.

  9. How will vocational education be delivered by Tvet and integrated into the school system especially at the primary level.
    Careful Boss…

    Asking for a friend…
    Which is worse?

    1 – A Joke ‘leader’ babbling nonsense and making promises (like Sutherland) about ‘completing housing projects in the next two months’
    ….or ‘delivering vocational training by TVET’ from MoE?

    OR IS IT..

    ..those BBs who keep on listening to these promises with some kind of hope that THIS TIME will be different.

  10. I thought I was watching a launch event for the new Iphone. These women think everything can be marketed like a consumer product

    I saw no benchmarking, no gap analysis, just proposals. Before we can talk about implementation, a clear understanding of where we are is needed. It is like wanting to make a jump of 20 feet but you are only capable of 10 feet. You can make a technically perfect jump, you still will fail.
    The consultatns of course know this and will gladly sign on to implement the hell out of these proposals (paid upfront in USD of course)

    • That is what made is so ridiculous. at least Apple has a product, even Telsa though they usually miss the date, deliver a product, but these jokers can only copy the superficial aspects of world class organisations.
      But as I said the consultants will implement the hell out of this, even if it is vaporware

    • One of our most experienced and respected educators is not prepared to be immersed in the hype, yet.

      Education ideas and rhetoric


      PARENTS, WARDS AND CHILDREN of Barbados have been promised a comprehensive overhaul of the educational system. This should take effect by the start of the academic year in September 2025. It could mean that 2024 will be the last year for the Common Entrance Examination as we have known it since 1959.
      The assumption is that we can satisfactorily implement the proposed changes in two years. Given the complexity of the reform overhaul and our reputation for implementation deficits, that may be a big assumption.
      Michael Rudder, in a letter last Friday, suggested that one could approach education reform by applying “a poultice, a sticking plaster, a scalpel or fertiliser”. Our esteemed Prime Minister seems to have opted for the scalpel and fairly radical surgery. Hopefully, we will not hear that “the operation was a success but the patient died”.
      The Educational Transformation Proposal was launched at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre last Thursday under the theme Reimagining Education In Barbados: A Bright Future For Every Child. The speakers expressed some profound ideas, some useful suggestions, much rhetoric and not a few vainglorious imaginings. Education reform very often reflects political objectives rather than pedagogical goals. Thus, when the Ministry of Education promises that the reform proposals will create “a bright future for every child”, that is essentially a political statement that cannot be pedagogically guaranteed.
      A Republican president of the United States said that “no child will be left behind”. However, the Republican Party is generally unwilling to spend money on welfare expansion that might help brown and black working-class American children. In spite of the educational promises of the Tony Blair Labour government when he took office, white children from the Council Estates are performing poorly in Britain to this day.
      Talk is cheap. I know of no polity on Earth, certainly not one facing the socio-economic challenges that we face, that can guarantee every one of its children “a bright future”, whatever that implies. Many young Bajans are migrating to Canada in search of a bright Canadian future. A child’s “bright future” depends on a great deal more than education reform, if its material and cultural well-being is seriously compromised. As our reimaginings take flight we must be prepared to think critically and honestly. Rhetoric will not suffice.
      There are two other “vain-imaginings” of which we should be aware. One is that all schools will suddenly become “good schools”, in fact, institutions of “excellence”. Thus we are told that parents will not have to worry about having to choose one school over another. All schools will be “good”. The reforms, it is suggested, will suddenly “deconstruct” the old colonial hierarchy of schools. Parents can now close their eyes and choose any school for their child as if they were playing a game of blind man cricket.
      Education talkers too often see schooling outside of the socio-cultural context in which schools function. Barbadian society is in trouble and so are our schools. Gambling in the corridors and a resulting death of a school prefect, rampant bullying, drug-selling in schools, fighting among students, rampant pilfering and vulgar impertinence to teachers. One young female student actually used the C word to describe a female teacher to her face and in front of an entire class. The corrupting influences of the ZR culture have persisted for nearly four decades under the eyes of many who are now talking about schools of excellence. Unlike the late Sir John Stanley Goddard, they never raised a public concern about the effects on the children they now claim to love so dearly.
      From the presumed top of the hierarchy to the presumed bottom, not a single secondary school in Barbados is immune to these challenges. However, we are assured by the reformers that all schools will be “good” schools. Will the above-mentioned negatives suddenly disappear?
      Finally, we are told that all schools will have good teachers, good “facilitators”, to use Minister of Education Kay McConney’s term. The staffing requirements for the proposed reforms are incredible not only in terms of teacher numbers, but teacher competencies. We are informed that these staffing requirements will be adequately met by a refashioned Erdiston Teachers’ Training College which will be “twinned” with an elite learning institution overseas. We will see what comes of that.
      One thing for sure is that it is becoming increasingly difficult to recruit and retain teachers of high academic standing, particularly male teachers. Given the problems in our schools, the increasing demands likely to be made on teachers by the new reforms, and the disrespect shown to them and the “profession”, it may prove increasingly difficult to meet the staffing imperatives of a “transformed” Barbadian education system, however it is conceived. Persons of high ability are not lining up to become career teachers.

      Ralph Jemmott is a former educator and social commentator.

      Source: Nation

    • The blogmaster has been listening to some of the discussion fueled by the recent proposals by government. Where is the data/studies shared by the MOE to inform discussion? So far there is too much huff and puff. Too much emotional arguments.

  11. @ David
    What data and studies??? You making mock sport at we!!??

    The now Prime Minister said on a campaign platform in May 2018 that the Common Entrance MUST go. And the people rejoiced!!!

    Everything you see here is to effect that basic “political” goal while trying to complete what was not done 20 years ago…20 years later and establish an optic driven legacy of transformation rather than a substance focused process of effective, execution, improvement and real results.

    Jemott’s article hit the nail on the head. This a pity more “thinkers” don’t speak out to give the constructive and objective critique necessary for better results in the end.

    • @Observing

      Is there any reason data addressing 11+ performance cannot be made public? What about time series data compare
      Coed with precoed. Also there must be data regarding general performance relative to school heads etc. we need to do better with education reform, this is serious business.

    • @Observing

      It is passing strange we have not had leaks with data stored at the ministry of education considering some of the other salacious ‘stuff’ we have had.

  12. David
    Data studies? Start with a comparative analysis of how we stack up against other countries with better systems. We’re holding on to a system that the originators deserted and plan to desert further. Jemmott the former history teacher (irony or symbolic) is also in the newspaper complaining about black hair ehilst his brilliant daughter has/had some beautiful locks.

  13. fuh true ? fuh real ?

    “Acknowledging that the exercise did cause some confusion, Archer-Bradshaw said the ministry sympathised with parents who thought their children were in danger.”

  14. Chief Education Officer Dr Ramona Archer-Bradshaw told Barbados TODAY the drill was carried out at the Government Hill, St Michael school in conjunction with the Barbados Police Service, the Barbados Defence Force and the Barbados Ambulance Service, to prepare the school body for any such occurrence
    This is a representative of the same group of individuals who will be responsible for leading the country into a “bright” academic future. I am all for changing the status quo when it comes to upgrading the educational direction of the country, but this group of people can’t see the forest for the trees.

    “To prepare the school body”? Are they going around to other schools “preparing” them for such an eventuality? What would have happened if a student took evasive action and jumped through a window and severely harmed themselves while attempting to escape?

    I thought that a fire drill at a school would be more appropriate, but things must be so dire in Bim that education authorities would sanction a terrorist drill.

    Heaven help us.

  15. @David
    Barbados does not compile useful, standardardised longitudinal data, and, the invalid data it does collect is never used effectively if at all!!

    Imagine a Ministry with 5 or more completely different processes, formats, point persons and methods for collecting and analyzing data. Not to mention it seems like every school from nursery to secondary “does its own thing” anyhow. What data what!

    You don’t get leaks because there isn’t much to leak and in any case, the status quo (top and bottoms) must always obtain! We don’t want to hold ineffective leaders, teachers AND parents to account in this 2 by 4 box.

    Re the drill at Springer and the Ministry’s response. I enter that as exhibit A for my overall argument as to why this transformation will be a mess unless we address and acknowledge the real issues and deficits.

  16. David
    I’m sure there is data. Up to the day of the presentation I heard of 3 schools that consistently do poorly and the number of students achieving less than 30 in Maths. I encourage you to apply this data/evidence first approach more often not only when it fits your narrative. But waaaait what data Jemmott used in his letter you bigged up? His experience teaching 25 years ago?🤣🤣

    • @Enuff

      Is that your definition of making relevant data available to the public to deflate the rhetoric that a currently overflowing from all and sundry? Then again this is maybe how the great manipulators of information and propaganda prefer.

  17. Pingback: Simulated IncompetenceSimulated IncompetenceBringing News and Opinions to the PeopleBarbados Underground

    • @enuff

      Coming from a pro supporter of a government that is earning the label a clawback government? Run with it.

  18. @Enuff
    I am sure there is data.

    And I am sure there is a Santa Claus and Easter Bunny who are already putting solutions in place for your 3 schools and 30% of students.

    • Former Chief Education Officer late Wendy Griffith admitted on a radio program there was mountain of data housed at the MOE.

  19. Former Chief Education Officer late Wendy Griffith admitted on a radio program there was mountain of data housed at the MOE
    Boss, ANY ‘jobby’ can be ‘data’.
    Thankfully, we mostly flush it down the sewer.

    Can any of them (or Enuff) give a relative performance index for all schools in Barbados – far less for individual administrators and teachers?
    If they cannot measure actual performance, how is it possible to manage for success? …or to even know what represents success?


    • Education official mum on job status
      TWO ATTEMPTS by reporters to find out whether Minister of Education Kay McConney would respond to calls for her job were futile yesterday.
      McConney appeared at two separate events yesterday and was questioned in the wake of the failed simulation exercise at the Springer Memorial School that led to a public outcry and calls for her resignation or firing.
      The first attempt to get a definitive answer occurred following the launch of Future Forward-Schools’ Innovation Challenge at Pelican Village’s Bagnall’s Point Gallery, Harbour Road.
      The second effort was made a few hours after the One Family Programme was launched at Golden Square Freedom Park in The City and she did not answer.
      “I think what is important is for us to focus on purpose and not perception. There will always be people who have their own perceptions and that is the beauty of living in a free country where people can say and do what they like.
      “I think we have right-thinking Barbadians who are able to understand how these things work and understand that if we can take an approach where when a school or a principal or someone makes a mistake, that we seek to use the opportunity to get better and build their capacity,” McConney told reporters at Pelican Village.
      When pressed and asked by a reporter “so you are not stepping down?” McConney only smiled and said: “Have yourself a good afternoon.”
      Meanwhile, when McConney was asked about the issue again, during the One Family Programme launch at Golden Square, she declined to address the issue of calls for her resignation or axing.
      She said instead that school security, which was the central aim of the exercise, was still a front burner issue for her ministry and the committee selected to formulate a national plan is on course to complete its work by the end of the year.
      “There is a coalition that has been put in place and they have been operating for three months putting together a national plan for safety and security at schools and the work of that should come out very soon. All agencies such as the Barbados Fire Service, School Council and so on are all part of that coalition. We would like that by the end of this school term that this plan would be ready,” McConney said.
      McConney made it clear yesterday that the situation could be used as a teachable moment.
      On Wednesday several students left Springer Memorial School distressed and in tears, and some upset parents said they believed the simulation exercise went too far and questioned why they were not informed beforehand. During the four-minute exercise, masked men who were believed to be carrying weapons, rushed onto the Government Hill, St Michael school compound, and began banging on doors. Chaos erupted as students sought to get away from the perceived danger.
      The incident spurred members of the public to flood call-in programmes calling for the head of McConney and the Chief Education Officer Dr Ramona Archer. The Democratic Labour Party (DLP) held a press conference next day and said she should be fired.
      On Thursday during a press conference Archer-Bradshaw apologised for the distress, but denied that guns were used during the exercise. She said an investigation was launched.
      Barbados Secondary Schools Teachers Union president Mary Redman however said safety drills were necessary due to safety concerns at schools. ( TG/CLM)

      Source: Nation

    • Education roll out ‘quite manageable’
      By Dr Dan C. Carter

      It’s now official. The long-anticipated roll out of the Ministry of Education Transformation Project, which took place at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre on October 5.
      The rather spectacular, but modest, presentation was sufficient, I hope, to further stimulate public interest in changes that seek to transform the educational system.
      The proposed changes did not surprise me since many of my writings were almost in tune with the general themes of the transformation project.
      However, I could not help but compare the success and failure of the White Paper on Education Reform 1995,
      with what is now being proposed.
      Undoubtedly the biggest anticipated change is the transfer of children from primary to secondary education, The White Paper stated that “the Common Entrance Examination (CEE)” should remain as a measure of what children have attained at the end of primary schooling since it is perceived as the “fairest” way by which children’s attainment levels can be assessed.”
      This position is contrasted diametrically with the new proposal titled, Reimagining Education In Barbados, which states that as a major restructuring of the secondary school system Government would: “Abolish [the] Common Entrance Examination and introduce a new mode of transferring students from primary to secondary (feeder schools, with built-in appellate mechanisms).”
      This call has been coming from a growing number of Barbadians over the past decades who see the CEE as representing a persistent legacy of colonial inequality and social divisiveness.
      New education path
      Since this new education path would encounter the greatest public unease, I was pleased that Prime Minister, Mia Amor Mottley and a former Education Minister, was able to address this historical imbalance.
      Mottley has consistently rationalised the change by referring to a time in Barbados when the secondary system reflected the racial and social advantages of the few. The Britishconceptualised Common Entrance Examination has been allowed to prevail too long in a country that has now moved from mere “independent” status to “republican” status. Mottley’s reference in her presentation to the “decolonising of education” and the overcoming of “mental barriers” has put the discussion in its proper historical context.
      The task of educational reform is never easy, especially in Barbados whose educational system, conventionally speaking, has been of a very high standard. A stage, however, has been reached, if we are “to go for gold” according to the Prime Minister, that the educational system must be transformed. There is no doubt that this project will entail enormous human and physical resources. Idmay Denny, director of the Education Reform Unit, who was a major player in the White Paper proposals, sound the early warning that “we must not miss the boat this time.”
      Unnecessary duplication
      I interpret Denny to mean that there must be greater efficiency this time around in the deployment of the ministry’s human resources; that initiatives are well planned and executed; that with the announced increased in committees that there should not be unnecessary duplication of responsibilities; that teachers are not cajoled but given the time to absorb their new tasks and environments; and that sustainability should be the underlying goal in implementation.
      As many of the proposals were being rolled out, it occurred to me that many of them sounded familiar and have been in the public domain for decades.
      The “feeder school system” on which the secondary modern school/newer secondary school was successfully launched in 1952, has long been suggested as the appropriate mechanism for a national replacement for the 11-plus examination. John Goddard has been a champion of this approach. Special education was given renewed impetus under Mottley when as Minister of Education, she established the Alma Parris Secondary School for those with educational challenges.
      Other initiatives mentioned were diagnostic testing, criterion referenced testing, students’ profiles and specialist teachers which were partially implemented. The master teacher was also a favourite topic of the Prime Minister.
      The one initiative that was started in the middle of the 1950s was that of the teaching of a foreign language, namely, Spanish. In fact, during this period, the Ministry of Education was insistent that some schools pursue this curriculum area which led to much public debate in the newspapers. Schools such as All Saint’s Boys’ and the Bay Primary taught Spanish.
      In fact, it was reported that a young pupil of the latter school actually greeted an educational official in Spanish on a visit to the said school.
      At the Christ Church Boys’ (now Milton Lynch Primary) in the 1970s I was given a class of senior boys to teach them Spanish.
      However, Spanish received national attention in the late 1990s, when education reform was at its height and when ‘native’ Spanish people were brought into the classrooms. They were then public demonstrations of primary aged children discoursing in the language. Dr Denny’s informing us that our pre-school children should be speaking at least four languages tells us a lot of how our educational system could have been.
      The point is that foreign language teaching in our primary schools should be one of the successes of our educational system. The importance of the teaching of Spanish and other languages to the social and economic development of Barbados has been canvassed repeatedly by the Prime Minister herself, the Minister of Tourism, the Minister of International Trade, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, especially with Barbados’ deepening relations with its Latin American neighbours.
      I have already made reference in an earlier article that the White Paper on Education 1995 offered a platform for major reform in Barbados, however, many of its components were never followed through or sustained.
      The present Reimaging Education In Barbados document gives Barbados a second chance of seriously transforming the education system, of resuscitating those areas that seem to have regressed and to implement those new ones with the objective of sustainability.
      I believe, Dr Ramona Archer-Bradshaw, that the unforeseen, sudden impact of COVID-19, that placed a pause on education delivery across the world, including Barbados, may have been your most challenging task to date as Chief Education Officer.
      However, the 2023 education roll out on paper seems monumental, but except for the secondary segment dealing with schools of excellence, the overall task may be quite manageable. I am confident of your capacity to get the job done.
      Dr Dan C. Carter is an educational historian and author.

      Source: Nation

    • Rethink education reform plan
      By Professor Joel Warrican

      I want to start by stating clearly that I am in full support of education reform.
      I think that it is long overdue and that, done sensibly, can be of superlative benefit to Barbados.
      I, however, find it necessary to analyse the current undertaking.
      From the time the talk of education reform started prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, certain buzz words and phrases were being tossed around. For example, we heard of a middle school system; centres of excellence; academies; that some schools’ areas of excellence would be linked to CAPE subjects and others would be linked to some kind of skill; and that some students would be given more than two years to complete their advance skill. At the time, I had no issue with this discourse as I believed it to be brainstorming of ideas, which is a good place to commence an exercise of this nature.
      I was perplexed when some three plus years later, the same ideas were being presented as the actual plan for the reform. My question was: when did these ideas go from brainstorming to a reform plan? How was it settled that these features would become the reform structure that Barbados would adopt? What happened to the process of transparency? What was even more baffling back then was that after these ideas were documented as the way forward for the country’s education system, the Ministry of Education then made a public show of gathering teachers and other education stakeholder under the big white imposing tent at The University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus for “consultation”.
      Not acceptable
      In my opinion, that “consultation” was more than a little late. Is consultation not usually done before a decision is made? And the old adage of “better late than never” is not acceptable here.
      Education reform is too important an endeavour for those responsible to be shrouding it in inefficiency. This is the future of young citizens that we are deciding here. From where I stand, that “consultation” appeared to be undertaken to satisfy the need for rubber-stamping of somebody’s ideas.
      It has long been acknowledged that reform is needed to establish a fairer system for transferring students from primary education to the secondary level, thus jettisoning a system in which a child’s future is essentially determined by an examination taken on a single day at age 11.
      Reform is needed to ensure that all students are educated in a space in which they can actually learn and be successful, in an environment that does not support elitism, as does the current one. These ideas represent a summary of all of the rhetoric volleyed about by the Ministry of Education and other persons who speak on the topic of the need for reform. To me, these are all legitimate reasons for seeking to bring about reform. Now, let us dissect those ideas and how they have evolved in the document made public at the launch of the reform on 5 October, 2023.
      First, the concept of a middle school system. What is the purpose of the middle school? How does it address the challenges in the school system? How does it fix the poor performance of students? The fact is that the problems that present themselves by the time the students enter secondary school are already there before they write the 11+ examination.
      They begin at the primary school level. So why are we seeking to address them through some middle school system? Whatever happened to the good educational practice of addressing challenges as early as possible such as at the early childhood and primary education levels?
      For the most part, by the time the students reach these middle schools, the frustrations of failure have already set in and for some children, this failure is so strongly entrenched by then, that they have already given up.
      Now, for those of you who are thinking “But there is no mention of middle schools in the recently launched reform!” Yes, they do say junior colleges, perhaps misguided by the thought that the use of the term “college” elevates the idea. The fact is, though, that even if you glue on a rainbow mane and single horn, a pig is still a pig, not a unicorn.
      What evidence is there that these middle schools . . . oh! excuse me, these junior colleges . . . will bring about the real change that is needed in education in Barbados? There is a common recognition in education that what seems commonsensical and logical is often not supported by research data.
      Relying solely on what seems to be common sense and logical often leads to bad decisions by policymakers. Anybody on the streets can argue on the basis of common sense and logic (and they often do on the callin programmes), but education professionals must go beyond this and turn to empirical research evidence to inform policy and practice.
      And what of these so-called Colleges of Excellence. This sounds suspiciously like the “academies” that were circulating in a document earlier in the year. And as was the case earlier, the notion of the Colleges of Excellence is vague. Yes, much is said about the curriculum, but there is no clear explanation of how schools will be assigned a specific area of excellence.
      Rethink idea
      I hope that this means that the powers that be are seriously rethinking this initial idea, which to my mind has the potential to perpetuate the system of academic elitism, especially since a senior educational personnel stated on radio that not all children will do well in the traditional academic areas so spaces must be created where they can learn skills and other non-traditional things to be able to survive in the society, perhaps alluding to technical vocational areas.
      While I agree with this notion of ensuring that all learners should be exposed to programmes that match their abilities and interests, I do not believe that the implementation of it can be a strategy that promotes stratification of students, with the socalled academically able in one setting and the others elsewhere.
      I believe that the Ministry of Education must go back to the drawing board, and when they do, they need to do proper consultation, consultation that does not start with preconceived ideas for which they appear to be seeking validation.
      This reform is big, important, and much needed, but Barbados has to get it right. Barbados can be the beacon for the region, it just needs to take the time to get it right. The country must seek to set its own agenda through transparent consultation rather than somebody else’s.
      When the Prime Minister called for an abandoning of the Common Entrance Exam and a reform of the system, I supported it and I still support it. But surely, this calls for broad-based consultation from the beginning, including even regional and international experts, rigorous research and a social partnership that is non-partisan. Often, when education change is discussed, we cite Finland.
      I have been to Finland and interacted with various stakeholders. What stood out was that the reform they undertook and that is bringing them the success that they are having was not accomplished by a single entity. It was done through a social partnership which included among others, trade unions, NGOs, industry, parent bodies, and importantly, all political parties. And they sought a solution that fitted their context.
      They did not reject all “outside” ideas, but they chose the ones that best suited the country. I would like to suggest that this is an excellent way to approach education reform: look at what others did or are doing, but seek a strategy that reflects our circumstances, our needs and our vision for the Barbados of the future.
      The authorities should resist the urge to use smoke and mirrors to gain favour for what can only be described as a paltry attempt to bring about change.
      Professor Joel Warrican, director, School of Education, UWI, Cave Hill Campus.

      Source: Nation

    • Pros and cons of reforms


      THE RESERVATIONS EXPRESSED in my last essay were not intended to be an out and out rejection of the idea of educational transformation or the proposals proffered. Its purpose was to suggest that much of it was “overblown” and unlikely in the prevailing conditions to bear fruit.

      Reforming schooling involves three factors. The first is policy, the second is process and the third is outcome or results. All three matter, but what matters ultimately are the outcomes.

      No matter how well articulated the policy or how established the process, what is important is whether students emerge from schools with a sufficiency of the cognitive, so-called hard skills and affective learnings or soft skills required to sustain the polity.

      Beyond the vaulting political rhetoric of “transformation”, there is a widely perceived need for educational reform. This indicates some dissatisfaction with existing quantitative and qualitative outcomes of our current system.

      Pre-primary education The idea of universal pre-primary schooling from ages three to five is a good one even though given other requirements, I would not consider it a priority.

      I once read that in the Scandinavian countries children start school much later, but they may have other social services that fill the gap. Pre-primary education across the board has its benefits but it will be costly. Has the cost been factored into the current calculations?


      We are in fact adding a new level of schooling across the board. It will undoubtedly mean increased infrastructure and more teachers trained to teach at that level. Where will the funding come from? More borrowings or more onerous taxation?

      Much is made of a “play-based” curriculum. We must be careful of pushing children too fast at that stage. Children learn through play and play helps children to enjoy learning, although there is nothing wrong with getting them to form letters and words where they have the appropriate motor skills.

      Universal testing to diagnose challenges with sight, hearing and so on at this stage is a vital imperative. Minister of Education Kay McConney’s testimony about her seeing difficulties as a child was compelling. Teachers and parents must be trained to look out for learning challenges at an early age.

      I do not favour the introduction of a foreign language at the pre-primary stage. Too many children today at the primary level and beyond struggle with language competency. In a generation that, generally speaking, does not read, they exhibit poor vocabulary, weak grasp of concepts and overall deficient comprehension. Let us focus on mastering the language in which children have to learn.

      Some children’s cultural backgrounds leave them with little or no acquaintance with the formal code of language, oral or written. I don’t understand the talk about teaching a foreign language at pre-primary level aimed at “setting the parameters for all four languages”. Someone may have to explain exactly what on earth that means.

      Primary education

      It may suit our Prime Minister’s sense of mission or political vanity to be able to claim that she finally abolished the 11-Plus Exam when so many others could not. The point is that some form of testing must be done to indicate a student’s capacity to move from the primary to the secondary cycle in terms of the mastery of vital literacy and numeracy competencies. A oneshot exam on one given day has its disadvantages and I support continuous assessment with tests at ages seven, nine and 11.

      These tests will be diagnostic, indicating what percentage of the nation’s children are performing above or below the standard expected at those three stages.

      It would also offer opportunities for remedial work at each stage. More remedial work needs to be done at the primary level of formal schooling, particularly for children with learning difficulties and socio-cultural handicaps. Smaller classes with special ed teachers would be a help.

      Continuous assessment

      One recognisable defect in the current 11-Plus arrangement may be that it inclines teachers in the primary public schools to focus on students who are expected to do well in the exam. This may enhance the reputation of the particular school, but it is not good pedagogical practice if it sacrifices the learning capacities of the seemingly less academically able. Academic (bookish) ability is only one of a number of potentialities.

      Continuous assessment tests would have to be universal with each child taking the same exam. You cannot have a teacher setting his own test at Wesley Hall and another setting her own at Mount Tabor. These continuous assessments should be done in the primary school which the child attends. It is most likely that the children who do well in the current Common Entrance test will be the same ones who do well under a system of continuous assessment.

      The big question about the 11-Plus has always been not so much about the exam itself, but about the system of transfer to the secondary level, in a schooling system that historically has been very hierarchically structured in terms of esteem.


      The Government of Barbados should come out and tell us whether it is the intention to turn each secondary school into an all-abilities facility, taking children who obtain from 90plus in the continuous assessment to those who obtained below 25. That must be made transparently clear.

      It has tremendous implications for staffing. There is much talk about “profiles” but teachers must know the academic profiles of their students. How else can one cater the teachinglearning strategies to different children with differing abilities and different levels of ability? I have no problem with the notion of a “master teacher” to retain in the classroom persons who actually like teaching and may be good at it, but do not much care for desk work. It was an idea proposed by the late Dr Leonard Shorey decades ago. It might also add some mobility to a profession that does not afford much upward mobility, and is increasingly failing to attract and retain the quality of teacher needed to enhance the complex system of educational reform that is proposed.

      The question is, who qualifies as a master teacher? A master teacher would be most useful in supervising new teachers to see how they teach and determining whether they have the aptitude for teaching in the first place. Too many people see teaching as a last choice.

      I also support more specialist teachers in primary schools. There are too many “generalists” where either in maths or language the knowledge base and teaching skills are deficient, and teacher teaches to his or her strengths at the expense of the students, leaving gaps in the curriculum coverage.

      Next: The Secondary Challenge. Ralph Jemmott is a former educator and social commentator.

      Source: Nation

    • Financial literacy in schools by January

      GOVERNMENT IS GEARING UP to teach financial literacy to the nation’s youth.

      The National Financial Literacy Expansion Programme was launched on Friday at the Baobab Towers, Warrens, St Michael, under the theme Mek Money Mek Sense. It is being rolled out by the Ministry of Business Development in partnership with the Ministry of Education and the Barbados Workers’ Union Co-operative Credit Union Ltd.

      Consultant Corey Worrell said the pilot would take place in 12 schools – six primary and six secondary – but would not be a part of the official timetable. He added they hoped to begin in January for the Hilary term.

      “What we are hoping for, following consultations with the principals, is to be fitted in where they can absorb us and roll out our curriculum, which is not part of the Ministry of Education’s curriculum. There are times special programmes are slotted into the school curriculum, where, for example, they may run once a week for [a month] and that is the approach we are taking,” he said.

      Worrell said there were 68 Government primary and 21 Government secondary schools in Barbados, too many with which to start such a pilot programme, so they were learning to creep before they walked.

      “We have a workable sample size which we will pilot the programme through, we will take the lessons learned . . . and next year we will have enough information that will help us to plan bigger,” he said, adding the schools had yet to be identified.

      The consultant said the next step would be to consult with principals and business studies teachers to tailor the programme to each participating school in the pilot. It has four main topics: spending, saving, budgeting and the psychology of money.

      Test the children

      Following the pilot, he said there will be an initiative to test the children and allow them to put the theory into practice.

      Minister of Energy and Business Development Senator Lisa Cummins said ensuring youth had the ability to make a successful living had positive social consequences.

      “We are dealing with young people to whom, for some, money is existential. How do we ensure that young people feel as though money makes sense for them? That has a direct implication on our society . . . [because] if [youth] feel as if they have no hope and they have nowhere to go, then that has a direct correlation on what happens on our streets,” she said.

      Cummins said the aim was to create a pathway to accessing funding for youth to one day create a class of entrepreneurs with control over their finances as well as with a firm understanding of how business worked.

      “We are empowering Barbadians to have the opportunity to become business leaders, not only in the region but the world. But this is not only about business but also national development and I hope to connect it to every single sector,” she said.

      Also speaking was Minister of State in the Ministry of Business Development Sandra Husbands. She said being financially literate was key to building and maintaining wealth, while Permanent Secretary Kevin Hunte called on society to nurture a culture of investors in order to create intergenerational wealth. (CA)

      Source: Nation

    • Smoke and mirrors reform?

      WITH REGARDS TO THE proposed educational reform in Barbados, I think the transfer of students from primary school to the so-called Junior Colleges of Excellence is really a ploy, a red herring conceived by the policymakers to camouflage the true reason for the title “college”.

      In my perusal of the literature exposed for public consumption, the idea of junior college seemed somewhat inappropriate. So I pondered on the possible reason or reasons for such a grandiose-sounding title, given that over 70 per cent of primary schoolchildren who write the 11-Plus examination every year perform poorly, receiving low scores.

      In addition, that sobriquet is normally reserved for tertiary level educational institutions.

      The following are my analysis and conclusions on the concept of junior college proposed by the educational policymakers (having taught for over 30 years at the secondary and tertiary levels in Barbados and at high school in America).

      Through generations of socialisation and indoctrination, many Barbadians, due to astigmatic vision, have adopted the social rolls which involve attitudes and attributes of the former colonial plantation owners – the former elite. Historically, those prestigious schools, which every citizen of the country wishes to attend, were designed for the children of the former planter class. As a result, such educational institutions automatically and naturally took on a superior aura. Harrison College is one such institution.

      In Barbados, the word “college” carries a highfalutin connotation, a cut above the rest, in a manner of speaking. The planter class is, for all intents and purposes, non-existent but there are many black Barbadians who have adopted the persona of the former colonial plantation owners.

      These citizens, including the political elite, see themselves as, in the tradition of the English upperclass, the aristocrats and nobles of the country. Superficially, they appear like the average citizen but their behaviours and attitudes reveal their true intentions and nature.

      For example, such individuals reject education reform because they perceive the educational status quo as their birthright.

      The educational policymakers are cognisant of the feelings and thinking of the so-called black aristocrats and others of like mind.

      The shapers of education are also acutely aware of the fact that the majority of the citizens of Barbados welcome educational reform. So the policymakers are faced with a dilemma: how do we please everyone?

      Their solution? Name all the secondary schools junior colleges at the lower level and senior colleges or academies of excellence at the upper level.

      All children transferring from primary school will attend these junior colleges unlike what obtains currently, where those pupils who score very high in the national examination enter Queen’s College, Harrison College and Combermere – the prestigious schools. Everyone in Barbados knows that the children of citizens who consider themselves the “aristocrats” attend these institutions, their inheritance. A few academicallyexceptional “lower class” children also enter these schools.

      When all children enter these proposed junior colleges without having to write an examination, the Barbadians who reject the 11-Plus will be satisfied, even pleased. The word “college” connotes importance. This is the camouflage, the mask, the smoke and mirrors!

      A non-examined or un-examined entry into these junior colleges appears all well and good, but the citizens of Barbados must observe and examine closely whose children will enter which particular junior college or colleges.

      Therein lies the rub!

      There is the possibility of discrimination in the form of a biased social stratification. That is, it is possible children will be able to gain entry into certain junior colleges based on their parents’ socio-economic standing in the country. If this is the case, then the status quo obtains; nothing will change.

      Will there be name changes for Harrison College, Queen’s College and Combermere? Will Combermere be called Combermere College? Will the citizens of Barbados be hearing of such colleges as Parkinson College, Princess Margaret College, St George College and so on?

      Similarly, Barbadians will have to scrutinise whose children enter which particular senior college or academy of excellence in order to see if the bias which currently occurs in the educational status quo still obtains with regards to social stratification.


      Source: Nation

    • Reforming secondary school

      This article was written and submitted by Ralph Jemmott, a former educator and social commentator.

      Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley has indicated that she would welcome buy-in and feedback to the Government’s education reform proposals. She has said that she is speaking “in good faith” and one takes her at her word.

      Arguably the most transformative changes come at the secondary level where the idea is for a two-stage secondary structure. It is also the most complex and presents the greatest risk of failure if we don’t get it right. One recalls Colin Powell aphorism that if you break it, you own it.

      There is a proposal for Junior Colleges of Excellence for students ages 12 to 14 and Senior College of Excellence with pupils aged 15 to 18. This constitutes a considerable departure from what previously obtained.

      We are still not informed as to whether the junior colleges and the senior colleges will be part of one campus or two separate institutions. This has to be made clear as it has implications for transportation and staffing.

      One notices that the terms “academy” and “middle school” seem to have disappeared from the discourse. The notion of “excellence” sounds good, but you cannot guarantee that any school is one of excellence simply by placing a “shingle” professing excellence at the gate entrance.

      Excellence in education is something that is earned and sustained over time and in education as in other aspects of life reputations are won and lost. You cannot designate a school where there is gambling, fighting and drug-use as a college of excellence.


      If the junior colleges are conceived as separate institutions this would imply not only a physical transfer of students but the purchase of new school uniforms at some expense to parents. There would be transfers from pre-primary to primary, from primary to junior college and then to senior college.

      Can we effectively manage this amount of “transference”? Recent debacles including the survey, the transfer of principals and the Springer Memorial mishap should incline critical thinkers to at least question our competence to manage reforms of this order of complexity.

      The real challenge to this particular innovation will be determining who goes from which junior to which senior college and on what basis. One suggestion is that it should be related to national development needs. Another is that it should reflect children’s interests, abilities and career choices. The first question is whether we have determined what the national needs are and the second is can it be expected that at age 14 a student can be sure of his career choice or be competent to “determine in what and where they want to place their energies”. We have to be wary of asking children to choose too prematurely.

      Sir Keith Hunte once warned about catering education to what he called “woolly notions of the marketplace”. The idea of specialist colleges of excellence sounds great but how feasible is it? Two new secondary schools are to come on stream as Government proposes to buy the old Ursuline Convent plant and the site at Chelston Park on Culloden Road. The only issue here is that with two schools in this area, this is likely to aggravate the traffic problems in the highly congested Collymore Rock area.

      I have always supported the concept of a Barbados National Secondary Diploma (BNSD) as a kind of equivalent to the American General Education Diploma(GED), for students who cannot fulfil the requirements of CSEC. All children need something to aim at and this would provide exactly that.

      The criticism often made of the BNSD is that it is little more than the old school leaving certificate with little value in the market place. That might depend on the level at which the diploma is pitched. It should not be just a certificate of attendance as some fear.

      If I want an office messenger I might choose to hire a BNSD rather than a CSEC graduate who might want a bigger salary and not stay long in the job. It should also be made available to adults who are interested in continuous learning. Most regional countries have their top schools. These include Queen’s Royal College and Bishop Anstey in Trinidad. Jamaica College and Munro College in Jamaica; Queen’s College in Guyana and St Mary’s College in St Lucia that produced two Nobel Prize winners – Sir Arthur Lewis and Derek Walcott.

      Mastery of computer technology is of course an imperative for all children. As with other disciplines there will be differences in ability varying from those who merely use the technology to those more able who may go on to develop a search engine or some like instrument. All children should emerge from school with some degree of computer literacy.

      The proposals laid out in the Reimagining Education In Barbados booklet will require broad-based popular support if they are to be successful. It is clear that with the reforms expected to go before parliament in January 2024 there is still a divide between supporters and opponent of the abolition of the Common Entrance.

      Will the feeder-school system work? Will significant numbers of parents opt not to send their children to low rated secondary colleges in their area opting out of the public system altogether.

      Many questions remain in relation to the reforms at the secondary level. There is a suspicion that any present consultations are a smoke screen for what the Government has already set its mind on doing. Let’s hope not.

      Source: Nation

    • Education reform starts with the mind

      This recent Springer simulation situation got me good. Bear in mind, I still have not fully recovered my peace of mind concerning the IDB survey scandal. I don’t know if I ever will.

      How could I, when that scandal was never adequately handled, and it seems that we will be forever saddled with lingering questions and doubts? And, yet again, the public is left to wonder without answers. Our minds allowed to wander, as rumour, speculation and discontent spread like cancer.

      Without the situation properly diagnosed, the public is expected to cover their collective nose, shrug their shoulders, lift their hands, hold the “I ain’t know” pose and keep their mouths closed. But we all know in the age of social media, that is not the way it goes.

      And now, a nation already struggling with rising flood waters of mistrust starts heading further in the direction of a widespread perception that there is a drought in responsibility and accountability affecting us.

      Whether that is truth or fiction, we know that reality can be overshadowed by perception.

      What spirit, permanent or temporary, would possess, those responsible for health and safety, leading them to the conclusion that a simulation of terrorism, on an unsuspecting population of teenage girls, would be good for them?

      Is it a similar spirit to the one that possesses some to think that beating their children is a necessity, and a right that should be protected constitutionally?

      Maybe, it is the same spirit that has led successive administrations to hail the importance of the “yout’ dem”, while hypocritically refusing to overhaul a long outdated educational system.

      There is a tendency among us to think that a child’s tears of terror are character building, and that teaching and parenting by fear and intimidation are okay and not trauma inducing.

      Maybe this issue of mistreating and under-considering the children is a widespread cultural problem that goes beyond any one situation or simulation.

      It should be addressed at the root. Not only in education and legislation, but also in religion and family relations. These branches of colonialism are bound to bear rotten fruit. So, whether in the home, at school, on the job, or on the streets, we will see shoots. We should not be surprised when violence takes root and young plants start to shoot up all over the place.

      Here is the conundrum we face. The more we hide our faces from the true state of our culture when it comes to raising children, the more we will need drills and simulations to keep them safe in case they find themselves in a situation that could kill them.

      But, with the same mindsets and attitudes that offset the trajectory of the youth in the first place, we will only produce solutions that make things worse or at least replicate the current state of affairs. So let us be clear.

      If you really care, you will acknowledge that this is a deep seated cultural issue. And that playing musical, ministerial chairs just won’t do.

      If your answer is simply removing a minister or changing a chief educational officer you are operating on the surface too. The seeds of the issue have been sown for generations into every Bajan at some level including me and you.

      Reforming our own mindsets is the most important thing we can do. That said, the renovation of our educational system starts from the roof. At the top.

      Educational authorities must stop, ask and answer some hard questions. What is our philosophy of education? What is the theoretical foundation on which efforts at reform are based? How do we respond to a growing antieducational, anti-intellectual age?

      Educational reform starts with a reform of the mindsets behind administration. Then comes forward to reform of the mindsets of those directly delivering the education.

      Then comes the admission that educational reform will not work if it is confined to the school alone. Too much of education happens in the communities, on the media and in the home.

      This is why the issue is so overly politicised. We’re dealing with people’s lives. The stakes are high. Officials are incentivised to keep their foot on the brakes and hide mistakes to keep their jobs safe.

      But, if officials and teachers are not safe to make mistakes they will not be able to grow and innovate.

      Here comes the realisation of the depth of the situation. All of this must be addressed simultaneously over time.

      Educational reform will not be a neatly planned, smoothly paved straight line. There will be a learning curve as we try to come from behind. It is a process that will not happen over night. The immediate task right now is to make sure the staff and students at The Springer Memorial Secondary are all right.

      Adrian Green is a communications specialist. Email

      Source: Nation


    By Sheria Brathwaite

    “Tension” among some members of staff at the Deighton Griffith Secondary School has led to a request for the Ministry of Education to intervene urgently in a bid to allow “students and teachers to settle down” and get on with the business of teaching and learning, Barbados TODAY has learned.
    The situation has escalated to the point where the board chairman of the Kingsland, Christ Church school is suggesting that some staffers be transferred.
    Board chairman John Wilson told Barbados TODAY on Monday that there was serious “tension” at the school and as a last resort, he wanted to highlight the issues affecting the student body and two workers in particular.
    The science teacher and lab technician who are said to be at the centre of the row made claims of being “disrespected” and “victimised” for speaking up about a health and safety hazard stemming from a fire six months ago.
    “There was a fire at the school [on] March 27, in the science lab as class was in session,” the teacher told Barbados TODAY. “The fire was never reported or anything like that and we were being forced to start back practicals even though there was a strong presence of gas . . . . Every time you said something about it, you were asked questions like ‘What are you talking about?’, like if you were going mad.”
    The science teacher also complained of being passed over for promotion after the head of the science department left the school.
    As the next person in line, she said, it was expected that she would have been promoted.
    “I was allowed to know that was not going to happen and someone was appointed without going through the board. I would have obviously queried it through the ministry and it was determined that I was the most senior,” the teacher said.
    The assistant lab technician added that she too was being affected. She explained that she was pursuing a diploma in education at Erdiston Teachers’ Training College but was being refused the opportunity to conduct teaching practice at the school even though it was board-approved.
    She said: “But there are other lab techs at different schools, who applied for the same course as me, who are allowed to come here and do their teaching practice. There is a shortage of teachers, my degree is in economics, and I could have been utilised, given my expertise, to teach maths. Yet a member of the auxiliary staff, who is not qualified in the particular area, is teaching maths.”
    The workers said their challenges did not end there.
    The assistant lab tech said the keys to the lab were taken away from her, as she noted that the lab stored all her colleague’s teaching materials.
    As days went by, the duo also realised that someone was smearing oil all over the workroom, including on desks, doors and walls.
    “Nothing is being done about it,” said the teacher. “It was happening on and off and then at one point every day. Previously, the locks on the lab door were cut off, a new one was placed and one day we came and found the locks on the cupboards corroded so I couldn’t get access to the cupboards.”
    Not having the keys to the room, both women, since last term, have to wait for another staffer to open the door.
    “We come and sit there and wait for someone to unlock the room,” the teacher said.
    “Sometimes it is not open at all or after nine o’clock which means I cannot teach classes as I also have resource material in the lab. So that means no teaching for the students.”
    The women said that the situation was also causing tension with other staff who were not involved, and it led to the teacher being assaulted last Friday. She did not identify the assailant.
    “The police were called in and even though it was suggested that I make an official complaint, I just asked that [the worker] be warned,” the teacher said.
    Both the teacher and the lab tech said they were barred from the lab again on Monday.
    “This morning, we came in around 8:15 and asked for the room to be opened. Up to now, the room has not been opened so we have been sitting on this bench for the entire day. We are being victimised because we spoke up about the fire. This is having a mental and physical toll on us. People are shouting at you and other staff are picking up . . . attitude towards us. I feel totally disrespected; you don’t know if you will be allowed to teach or not on any given day,” she said.
    “The children are getting reduced teaching time but I have been asking them to come online, and that is mentally draining and physically draining for me because I am a single mother and I still have to take care of my son and my household.”
    The women said they wanted the ministry to investigate the matter as soon as possible, especially since the senior year students, those studying human and social biology in particular, were being affected.
    Wilson said the issue was going on too long and asked the workers to highlight the matter publicly.
    “From what I have seen here in the last nine months . . . [this] is trying to divide this school and I think they should be removed.
    There is also a need for some persons to be transferred to other schools; this school needs a prompt shake-up at this time because it is affecting the children and staff morale.
    I would like to see this matter resolved this week so the children and staff could settle down.”
    General secretary of Unity Workers’ Union Caswell Franklyn, who is representing the two workers, said a letter was written to the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Education about three weeks ago but they “have not heard back anything”.
    “That was the first part of the grievance process,” he said. “The next step will be me taking it to the director general of the Ministry of the Public Service.”
    Franklyn added that as it relates to the fire, an official report should have been made to the Barbados Fire Service.
    Regarding the teacher’s promotion, he said she previously acted in the position and was suitably qualified.
    He added that it was also unfair that the assistant lab technician was being hampered from doing teaching practice at the school.
    When Barbados TODAY was at the school conducting interviews on Monday, principal Major Michael Boyce appeared agitated at the team’s presence and questioned who had granted permission them permission to be on the premises.
    Barbados TODAY also reached out to Chief Education Officer Dr Ramona Archer- Bradshaw but a promised return call was not received up to the time of publication.

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