BUT: Give realistic BSSEE timeline

Indecision about the fate of the Barbados Secondary School Entrance Exam (BSSEE) is causing some uncertainty within the education profession says general secretary of the Barbados Union of Teachers Herbert Gittens.

He urged the Ministry of Education not to make further pronouncements on the future of the exam also known as the Common Entrance Examination and 11-Plus until firm decisions were made about its replacement. 

Gittens expressed the belief that the exam was likely to be around for another “three to four years” at least. He explained that while educators were following the syllabus each year, the cloud of uncertainty over the exams was not helping the preparation process, which begins three years prior.

“I would say that it would be better if the authorities could determine exactly when the exam will be abolished by evaluating what is happening now. We need to give people a more realistic timeline to when the process can be really rolled out. This would be better than jumping every year and saying that we are going one more year. The Government needs to look at the process and determine how long it would take to come to fruition,” Gittens said.

Since coming to power in 2018, Government promised the abolition of the exam as part of a sweeping overhaul of the education system. Last year, the Ministry of Education launched its education transformation initiative.

On Tuesday, when the annual examination was held, Minister of Education Kay McConney told the Daily Nation that officials were still gathering information and perspectives regarding education reform and in the meantime, the exam would take place next year.

“It is very likely there will be a Common Entrance Exam next year, though I will not say next year will be the last time. People are anxious but give us a moment to come back. We put out very ambitious proposals and then we went to stakeholder consultations and then public consultations. Now we are consolidating inputs and analysing suggestions so we can come back and say this is what we will be putting out,” she said.

However, the BUT general secretary said based on the system’s state of readiness, there was little to suggest that the transition would be in the short term. 

“The transformation process is a massive undertaking and you cannot change the education system in one fell swoop. So, I expect this exam to be around for another three to five years because the transformation process requires time, thought, considerable work and of course resources,” Gittens said.

 He added: “The Ministry of Education put a hold on the work that was being done by various committees that were set up to look at various aspects of the education transformation so that signals that there might be some change of thought to the process. “It looks unlikely that the process will be rolled out next year because from our end a lot will have to happen. From the union’s point of view, one could almost conclude that the exam will be around much more than 2025, so the announcement by the minister [this week] was no real surprise.”

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