Sunday, March 3, 2024

FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH: Building the ‘ideal citizen’


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THANK GOODNESS all the anxiety over the dreaded Common Entrance Exam is over and children and parents can get back to some normalcy in their lives.

My great-nephew and niece sat the exam and, although I know they’re both very bright, I was still anxious as the exam is a great strain on children, especially when, under this system, so much depends on that few hours on that particular day. I know only too well that nervousness can play a significant part in exam performance, seeing that one of my own head teacher’s comments was “does not do her best under exam conditions”.

Thankfully both Raffie’s and Haillie’s results were excellent and they’ll attend their first choice school, Queen’s College, where my other great-niece Kaya goes on to third form in September. She also received excellent results in her term/year-end exams.

The children also did well in their extra-curricular activities, with Haillie’s team winning the Junior Cheerleading Championship and Raffie receiving a gold medal in karate and trophies for Best Student, Most Disciplined and Most Dedicated Student in All Saints DARE programme.

DARE is an international substance abuse prevention education programme which seeks to prevent use of controlled drugs, membership in gangs and violent behaviour. It teaches skills which children can use to help them make good choices and be good citizens. The Royal Barbados Police Force must be commended for their part in promoting this programme over the last 15 years and the Barbados Association of Returning Nationals (Northern Chapter) and corporate Barbados for providing sponsorship for the graduation.

In both academic and extra-curricular activities, congratulations must go not only to children and their teachers, but also to parents and other family members who take an interest and support them wherever possible. Children who don’t have this support are at a great disadvantage.

There is continuing debate on whether the Common Entrance should be scrapped and I’m one who thinks it should be – at least in its present form. There was an alternative model, the Caribbean Primary Exit Assessment Programme (CPEA), proposed by the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC), with a pilot programme implemented in some countries in 2012.

The CPEA model in primary schools is felt to be most appropriate in building the “ideal citizen”. I believe most, if not all, of us would admit that we have fallen far from this ideal over time and the way to improve the situation is to groom children from an early age. The programme describes the ideal citizen as one who, among other things, is: filled with respect for human life; emotionally secure, with a high level of self-confidence and self-esteem; aware of the importance of living in harmony with the environment; has a strong appreciation of family and kinship values; demonstrates a positive work ethic; and demonstrates multiple literacies, independence and critical thinking.

Although some aspects of this model may have been adopted in Barbados, I’m not aware that we’ve embraced the continuous assessment aspect which allows some marks to be accumulated prior to the final external examination. I trust our Ministry of Education will seriously consider adopting the model or at least the continuous assessment and more holistic learning aspect of it.

The Nation newspaper is doing a good job of promoting primary school students’ achievements, although I fear the Crop Over vulgarity threatens to overshadow this effort and many schools may go by the wayside.

Still on primary school issues, there have been comments in the Press about the financial strain which graduation ceremonies at primary schools (and perhaps also secondary schools) place on parents. I agree with the celebrations, but whether gowns and mortar boards are necessary at that stage of a child’s life is questionable. Sashes with the year and the school should certainly be adequate.

I’ve never agreed with co-education, which I think is at the root of many of the problems in our secondary schools. I know that a model involving separate male and female classes was being tested in some schools, but does anyone know the results of the experiment?

Finally, congratulations to my four-year-old great-nephew Dominic who has mastered the art of riding his bike without training wheels. As he declared to his grandmother, “Practice makes perfect”. So true!

• Dr Frances Chandler is a former independent senator. Email


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