Resolution likely in assessment row

Remember the dispute between Barbados Secondary Teachers Union (BSTU) and the Ministry of Education over the marking of School-based Assessments (SBA) which form part of examinations set by the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC)?

It seems a resolution finally could be in the works. Minister of Education Ronald Jones said on the sidelines of the official release of the May/June CXC exam results this morning that his ministry would soon sit with the school principals as a first step.

Minister of Education Ronald Jones
Minister of Education Ronald Jones

“In the next few weeks and months, we will be paying some attention to what happened this year; the vagaries of that particular scenario, and how we can arrive at a solution which would better understand the needs of the student, rather than the needs of ourselves as teachers or administrators. We will engage in that discussion, starting first with the principals,” Jones said.

Jones said the ministry had to get to understand the impact of an increasing number of SBA offerings in the school system on teachers adequately meeting the needs of the students.  Then from there, he added, the other stakeholders would be brought to the table.

Asked to comment on the threat by the BSTU not to mark any more SBAs unless its members were being paid, Jones declined to entertain any discussion on that matter. “I am not going to get into ‘who say dem ain’t doing this and who says dem ain’t doing that’. An SBA is a continuous assessment. You don’t assess the process at the end, waiting for the submission of the script. So it’s a conundrum there that I am yet trying to understand. But as I said, I have no battles with anyone,” declared the Minister.

Jones said as a policymaker he looked at all roads for opportunities and solutions.  “But I don’t want to hang our students out or sacrifice our students on anybody’s altar,” Jones emphasized.  Even though BSTU members boycotted the marking of SBAs during the past academic year, Jones reported all were still completed.

He noted some students had misgivings about giving the exams their all because of doubts over the marking of their SBAs. However, Jones thanked those teachers who stuck to the task of correcting the assessments.

CXC Registrar Glenroy Cumberbatch also reported that there was a “very good” return of the SBAs this year. He told Barbados TODAY the completion of the assessments was quite high and played down any negative impact which the boycott by the BSTU members would have had.

He also said that the Caribbean Union of Teachers (CUT) had written to him about payment for marking the papers, but he informed that organization that compensation was the responsibility of the Ministries of Education.

The CXC Registrar called for a speedy resolution to the dispute, saying he would welcome a fuller participation in the marking of the SBAs.

Just yesterday BSTU President Mary Redman warned in a story in Barbados TODAY that her union’s members would not mark SBA projects in the new academic year unless they were being paid to do so, repeating her position that it was unfair to expect teachers to take on additional work without compensation.

“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.

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