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SBA row rolls into new school year

There could be a fresh start to an old problem that has plagued the education sector when the new school year begins next month, as a major row between the Barbados Secondary Teachers Union (BSTU) and the Ministry of Educations appears set to escalate.

The BSTU has warned that members would not mark School Based Assessment (SBA) projects in the new academic year unless they were being paid to do so.

The issue came to a head during the last school year when the secondary school teachers refused to mark the SBAs, arguing that they should be compensated by the regional examining body, the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC), because these assessments meant additional responsibilities outside their normal duties.

However, the Ministry of Education has been adamant that SBAs, which represent between 15 to 40 per cent of students’ final grade, formed part of the teachers duties, and it has threatened to discipline teachers who boycott the examination.   

BSTU President Mary Redman today brushed aside the threat, saying it was unfair to expect her members to take on additional work without compensation.

BSTU head Mary Redman

BSTU head Mary Redman

“We will definitely be proceeding in the same vein come September . . . BSTU members will not be correcting the SBAs. We will continue to supervise and assist students, but definitely, since the Ministry [of Education] and the schools have demonstrated they are willing to pay others . . . outsiders to correct the SBAs, then having set that precedence, they would have to continue in that way,” Redman told Barbados TODAY.

The union boss complained that they have been asked to take on an even greater workload with the introduction of the Caribbean Vocational Qualifications (QVC), stressing that the teachers discussed this matter at the recent meeting of the Caribbean Union of Teachers (CUT) in Dominica.

“The CXC spoke to us at the CUT meeting, and the amount of work now involved in the CUT and the fact that many of the schools now have cut back . . . and the facilities are lacking, and yet still they are expected to go ahead and implement this programme.

“It is our understanding from two of the other islands that where the facilities are lacking, they are asking persons to partner with the private sector so that students can go into restaurants, in hotels and business places and utilize their facilities. The teachers are envisaging all sorts of problems with these arrangements,” added Redman.

The Guyana Teachers’ Union (GTU) announced in April that it too would ask its members not to mark SBAs, if they were not being paid. The GTU president Mark Lyte said at the time that its position was based on a decision taken by the CUT at a meeting in Belize.

He added that the decision to demand payment from the CXC was based on the fact that the CXC paid for marking the written tests but not for the assessments.

Meanwhile, there appears to be little interest in the subject by the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT), according to a survey of the membership.

BUT President Pedro Shepherd told Barbados TODAY fewer than 30 per cent of his members responded to a poll on the matter, although a majority of those who responded supported the BSTU’s position.

“Quite a number of teachers did not respond, actually. We sent out to roughly over 700 members, probably just under 200 responded. But the response basically is supporting the position. But you know, some people would say that is not the majority. So we have to look at it and discuss it further,” the BUT head said.

The BUT received the survey results shortly before a delegation left for the CUT Biennial Conference.

Shepherd said the executive would meet before the start of the new school term to discuss the findings.

“From the results we got, the teachers are in support of the position taken [by the BSTU],” the union boss emphasized.

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