Colleges of Excellence on cards for secondary education

There will be a two-stage secondary school structure at the start of the 2025 academic school year.

This was disclosed by Chief Education Officer  Dr Ramona Archer-Bradshaw last Thursday during the launch of the Education Transformation proposals at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.

Archer Bradshaw said: “What we are also proposing (apart from the introduction of the Barbados National Secondary Diploma and competency-based options) is a two tiered structure where we have a Junior College of Excellence (JCE) and the Senior College of Excellences (SCE).”

Director of Education Reform, Dr Idamay Denny added: “The Junior College of Excellence is going to be equivalent to what is now the lower school of the secondary school system. It will typically have children between the ages of 12- to 14-years old but we recognised that we have not been doing well at providing for our gifted children. If we recognise that they are gifted children in the feeder system who can move to the JCE before age 12 then we will do so.”

She continued: “We are updating the core curriculum as was said earlier by the Chief Education Officer and financial literacy is one of the things we are exposing the children to. Digital literacy is another area that will be included. The World Economic Forum talked about the fact that all of the jobs in the future are going to be led by technology so therefore we have to teach our children digital literacy.

“We are also going to have a wide range of subject areas that the children will be exposed to because one of things that has to happen is that the children have to interact with things in order to find out what they like and what they do well.”

It was also announced that at the end of the children’s time at the JCE, they would be assessed and given a certification which would mark their completion of the first three years of secondary education in Barbados.

Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley chats with students of Christ Church Foundation School after the launch. (Picture by Sandy Pitt)

The SCE will normally contain students from ages 15 to 18 years old for the last four years of secondary education but the system is flexible to facilitate students who are demonstrably capable (academically and maturity wise) of stepping up prior to reaching 15 years old.

Speaking about the features of the proposed SCEs, Denny said: “These Senior Colleges of Excellence will have specialist programming which is linked to national development priorities. We have listened and looked at a number of speeches made relative to economic development around the country and we have identified a number of areas earmarked as essential for the future. Things like Food Science & Agriculture, Information Technology and Robotics, Sports and the Arts.”

Two new schools will be added to help with the student-teacher ratio: A JCE will be installed at the site of the former Ursuline Convent and an SCE will be located at the site of Chelston Park.

The Core Curriculum for Junior Colleges of Excellence is as follows:

Social Studies
Foreign Languages
Coding and Robotics
Financial Literacy
Agricultural Science
Physical Education
Religious Education
Business Studies
Technical and Vocational Education Training
Information Technology
Health and Family Life Education
Visual Arts
Theatre Arts
Career Guidance

The Core Curriculum for the Senior Colleges of Excellence:

Physical Education
Foreign Languages
Coding and Robotics
Information Technology
Career Guidance

After completing the SCE, students can either seek further education at the Barbados Community College, Barbados Vocational Training Board, Samuel Jackman Prescod Institute of Technology,  the University of the West Indies or join the workforce.

They will also have the option of gaining Advanced Proficiency Assessments (CAPE, Caribbean Vocational Qualification, Level 2, Other Accredited Certification) or taking on an extended programme for students moving at a slower pace.

The Ministry of Education listed the benefits for having JCEs are as follows:

Early Intervention: The focus on the core learning areas will allow for the Junior Colleges of Excellence to more effectively identify academic exceptionalities (giftedness and learning gaps) early on, enabling timely interventions to help struggling students especially, but all students in general, to advance their learning.
Holistic Development: Junior Colleges of Excellence would prioritise comprehensive development, addressing not only academic but also social and emotional well-being.
Strong Teacher-Student Bonds: The Junior College arrangement will allow for more focused attention which should foster close relationships between teachers and students, offering valuable support and mentorship.
Personalised Education: The Junior Colleges of Excellence will provide a more personalised and supportive learning environment, recognising the unique needs of students from all backgrounds.
Transitional Guidance: The Junior College model will help students smoothly transition from primary to secondary school, offering guidance and preparation for the academic and social changes ahead.

Their benefits of SCE are as follows:

Flexible Curriculum – Senior Colleges of Excellence (SCE) will offer a common core and a specialised programme of options.
Major & Minor Options – Students in a SCE will follow a major option, but may also take a minor option, available at another SCE.
Multiple Modalities – Programmes will be offered in face-to-face, online and blended modalities.
Accreditation – Students will pursue certification with the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC), but may also pursue certification with other accredited examination bodies.
International Baccalaureate – SCEs may opt to offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) programme. (JC)

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