Press conference on the Barbados Secondary School Entrance Examination and other education matter hosted by Minister of Education, Technological and Vocational Training, Santia Bradshaw. (Public Affairs Department)

The annual Barbados Secondary School Entrance Examination (BSSEE), commonly known as the Common Entrance or 11-plus exam, will be held on Wednesday, July 28.

Minister of Education, Technological and Vocational Training, Santia Bradshaw, made the announcement during a press conference, held this morning, to update the country on the matter.

“The decision has been taken that we will hold the Common Entrance Examination this year on the 28th of July, particularly because many of our teachers have said to us that the students require additional time. It is difficult to say how much time every child will need, but we believe that that is a reasonable time to allow for students to be able to work on the concepts and to ensure that they have some of the foundation and things that are necessary to be able to transition them,” she explained, noting that the decision was also based on the results of a recent assessment of students eligible to write the exams.

It was conducted on May 12, with a total of 3,360 students from both public and private schools writing the English paper, and 3,359 writing the Mathematics paper.

The findings, which were presented by Acting Chief Education Officer, Joy Adamson, revealed “a slight drop” of about six points in the national mean score in English to 63, when compared to 69 in 2018 and 66 in 2019. However, the overall average in Mathematics was an “alarming” 36 per cent, a significant decline when compared to the scores of 62 in 2020 and 2019.

They also showed that the syllabus was not completed due to disruptions to the school system, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The assessment, summarised by Mrs. Adamson, concluded that “more than 50 per cent” of students needed more time to prepare for the BSSEE, while “over 50 per cent of the students who proceed to secondary school will obviously proceed with severe deficits that will have to be addressed”.

It was on this basis that the Education Minister highlighted the impact of the pandemic on students, noting that while some have performed well despite the challenges, they are others, who for various reasons, such as lack of parental support or devices to engage in online classes, have fallen behind.

Minister of Education, Santia Bradshaw, also announced that students, whose parents and teachers believed they were not yet ready to write the 2021 BSSEE, would be given the option to defer. (PMO)

To this end, Ms. Bradshaw further announced that students whose parents and teachers believed they were not yet ready to write the 2021 BSSEE would be given the option to defer.

She added that aside from having information on the deferral process available at the respective schools, a series of consultations would be held to help parents understand it.

Meanwhile, the Minister has appealed to parents, and the wider society, not to view the deferral in a bad light, and instead support their children.

“I want people to understand this is not a bad thing…. We’ve taken the decision that if parents and teachers believe that based on the performance of students over the past few weeks and certainly prior to the examination, there’s genuine reason based on all of the things that we know to be the case – the lack of parental support issues in terms of being absent from school, that the students have not had the device or had the benefit of the device for a lengthy period – any of those reasons or a combination of those reasons are sufficient to make a case for a deferral of those students.

“And therefore, we must treat this with the seriousness with which it deserves, explaining to our students, they are not failures.  This COVID-19 pandemic has been thrust upon us, and therefore we must allow them the opportunity, if they need additional time, in the form of another year, to be able to consolidate a number of these concepts, so that they are comfortable in moving on and transitioning at a later stage, but what we must not do, is to penalise or make our children feel as though they are inadequate in any way, by making the decision to do an additional year.”

Minister Bradshaw also reiterated her Ministry’s commitment to addressing the existing deficits within Barbados’ education system.

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