On July 5, a total of 3,300 students will take the Barbados Secondary Schools’ Entrance Examination (BSSEE) at the island’s 21 public secondary schools.
The figure comprises 1,545 males and 1,755 females, and students will be required to wear masks, sanitise, and be seated three feet apart.
In a recent interview with the Barbados Government Information Service (BGIS), Chief Education Officer, Dr. Ramona Archer-Bradshaw, noted the importance of protecting students in the COVID-19 environment, and gave the assurance that the protocols governing the exams, as well as those pertaining to how parents/guardians conduct themselves in the vicinity of the centres, would be enforced.
Speaking on the issue of sanitisation, Dr. Archer-Bradshaw said: “There will be sanitising stations in the classroom and/or bottles of alcohol for students to cleanse their hands on entering the compound. But I want to make it clear that all COVID-19 protocols will be followed. We will also have [school] monitors from the public primary schools at the examination centres.”
The Chief Education Officer further noted that in addition to children walking with at least two pencils, a sharpener, an eraser and a ruler, they should bring along more than one mask.
“…Just in case the one that they are wearing falls off or is defective, they can have another face mask that they can put on during the examination,” she stated.
She also addressed the issue of a child’s inability to take the exam for reasons related to illness, an accident or family emergency. Acknowledging that measures would be put in place to ensure that the child is given the opportunity to complete an alternative examination paper, she stressed: “We do know that these eventualities occur. As a result, we have an alternate date for the writing of an alternative examination; that date will be announced in due course.”
The examination begins at 9:00 a.m. with the essay, then the English paper. This will be followed by a short break, after which there will be the Mathematics paper. The entire process is expected to be completed by 1:15 p.m.
With respect to protocols governing the behaviour and attitudes of parents/guardians, Dr. Archer-Bradshaw emphasised that they should “drop their children off at the gate of the school by 8:30 a.m. for the start of the examination at 9:00 a.m., and return at 1:15 p.m.”
As with every year’s exam, parents/guardians are being urged not to place undue stress on their children. The advice from the Chief Education Officer is to encourage them to “go into the exam and give of their best”.
“I would encourage parents to get up early that morning and encourage the children also to do likewise. Allow the children to have a good breakfast, not too heavy and get to the centre by 8:30 a.m.
“In terms of the snack, it is only a 30-minute break. So, we expect the parents to have prepared a sandwich and maybe a juice or some water. We don’t expect parents to give children an extremely heavy lunch during that 30-minute period,” she stated.
After the exam, parents/guardians are being urged to adopt an engaging stance, one which puts the children at ease and takes the pressure off.
Explaining how this could be facilitated, Dr. Archer-Bradshaw said when parents collect their child/ward they should “congratulate them on a job well done and allow the child to relax”.
“The examination is only one day. I would say that with the parents’ support that the child will do well despite the school that he/she attends. I would also encourage parents to reassure their children. Let them know that they are there for them at all times; take care of their mental well-being as well as their physical well-being. I encourage parents to spend time with the children; understand them; value them and guide them so that they [can] grow up to be citizens of whom we can be proud,” she remarked.