Scrap the 11 plus!

This year will be as others have been. Sometime in June, the media will appear to take photos of ecstatic children and overjoyed parents whose Common Entrance results gave their wards the privilege of attending the school of their choice.

There will also be those who did not make it to the institution they preferred, but will be encouraged to “work hard” and “try their best” at their new school, because ultimately, “it does not matter where you go, but how you apply yourself”. An overabundance of congratulations and Facebook posts will go from person to person, and then the long summer will begin.

I have now discovered that there is yet another side to this story. There are no cameras here; there are matter-of-fact decisions. There will be no special congratulations here; there is merely relief that the child was allocated to a “free” secondary school. There is the hope that although the child may have scored less than 20 per cent in the exam, the system will somehow correct itself. There is the belief that because our education is “free”, and gives everyone a fair chance, surely what could not be accomplished in the child’s formative years at a primary school, will be successfully attempted in a secondary school.

However, after six years of being at the bottom of the class, I suspect that that their esteem may have taken a hit or two. I must confess, when my son did the “Eleven plus”, I was totally oblivious to this dichotomy taking place. I suspect many parents may well be in that same position. Most of us know that there are children who technically fail the Common Entrance Exam but are nonetheless allocated to a secondary school.

What we focus little on is that there are some children who will score less than 20 or even ten per cent on an exam paper and are allocated to a secondary school. While some of us are weighing between which older secondary school we prefer, there are others who would like their child simply to have a chance at an education – an education that we have promised them; an education to which our tax-payers’ dollars are applied. Indeed, the education that we all buy uniforms and text books for.

The purpose of anything is ultimately to meet a need. This is either a need of individuals or a population. If our educational system will this year fail 1,000-odd children again, we must assess its purpose. The system we have must not work only in favour of a few. We sought to abolish that system years ago.

That system that allowed access to a secondary education based on the amount of melanin in one’s skin, one’s socio-economic background and subsequently by one’s ability to pass a test. We removed some of those barriers and opened the floodgate for many more children.

If there had been no policy change to the system at that time, I could not have attended a secondary school, or any of my siblings for that matter. However, there is a demographic we must now turn our hearts towards. A demographic of children who struggle to simply read; and reading is the foundation to learning all other subjects.

These children process information in ways different from the modes that we have made to be the standard, but they do not possess an inability to learn. I see children who are intelligent, gifted and put here for a purpose having their dreams snatched from them. I see a cycle of poverty and non-fulfilment of potential destined to repeat itself.

If you, as a parent in this position, do not have the financial means to pay for specialized tuition, then the system will undoubtedly fail you. These children should not have the stigmatization afforded them in some cases. Rather, they deserve to be empowered with the tools they need for learning and have equal opportunities to develop.

Of course, the reality is that there are seemingly capable, literate children who are not in this category, who are also forced into a system which does not facilitate their potential either. However, I want to focus on those who are desperately in need of tools and empowerment.

I do not make these comments to in anyway castigate the teachers who will receive a new batch of children with these needs this very year. They will now set about teaching the basics of reading and writing, with a hope that their students can exit the system being literate.

These teachers have a curriculum to teach; these teachers must prepare children for CXC’s just as their colleagues at the other schools do; these teachers are overworked and these schools do not have the resources needed to help these children the way they should. These classes are large and some of these children are by now very disruptive.

If we do not agitate for change, every year the story will remain the same. These children will not take their place in society as we would prefer. The successful performance as a nation on the world stage is determined by the development of all its people and not just a few.

So what is my motive for this article? I met a child. He is funny, intelligent, creative and has more energy than his mother would prefer. In other words, he is a typical eleven-year-old boy. He is also challenged with dyslexia. I assisted with a project this year that allowed me to see the mock test scripts of some students scheduled to do the Common Entrance Exam this year.

This was the first time that I realized it was possible for a child to score under 10 per cent. What was more shocking to me was the number of students who scored under 30. I had never seen this before. Some of these children did not complete their papers. They did what they could and left out the rest; namely the aspects of the paper that required more complex analyses.

The child I met, however, completed his paper – even the sections that were complex. He did not score in those sections – he received a zero percentage. I also met another student who apparently is also challenged with dyslexia. He wrote an excellent composition. He could not spell the words well or structure the sentences as he would prefer, but he creatively told his story.

He received a D for his composition. We do not give out A’s for effort. I am not a technocrat in the educational field; I am a parent. I do not have all the answers; I have concerns. I do not have statistical evidence; I have complaints of friends who are parents and teachers. I do not have the pen strokes necessary to change policy; I have tears, some prayers and a heart.

I do know it is time for a change, however. Let us make this year the last year. Let us change this story, and indeed let us change the course of our nation.

32 Responses to Scrap the 11 plus!

  1. Joey St
    Joey St April 28, 2017 at 12:59 pm

    Why are some of these children humiliated into taking an exam in which they are obviously going to fail every single year? Seems like those in authority only care about the high flyers but you have failed all the others.

    • Ras Unjay
      Ras Unjay April 28, 2017 at 4:11 pm

      No matter what
      U all do it will end ip the same

    • Ras Unjay
      Ras Unjay April 28, 2017 at 4:24 pm

      What to do,keep them in primary school until when,

    • Ras Unjay
      Ras Unjay April 28, 2017 at 4:27 pm

      How can u all stop some children from being more intelligent than some

    • Joey St
      Joey St April 28, 2017 at 4:49 pm

      All of what you are saying is true and is exactly why you don’t need this or any exam

  2. Carolyn Gill Humphrey
    Carolyn Gill Humphrey April 28, 2017 at 1:08 pm

    I get the many issues with the 11+. My main concern though is what we would replace it with. We can think up an ideal system, but can we really implement such a system when we can’t even get certain basic things done in the island? I fear change, simply because I can’t see it being done well in this case. Maybe it’s just me.

    • Sue Ward
      Sue Ward April 28, 2017 at 2:50 pm

      The 11+ is fair if they did it as a true test of the child’s ability.

      No extra lessons, no big build up, just come in and take the test.

      That’s how I did it waaaaaaay back when in the UK.

      Just pitched up at school one day and took the test and then everyone shows their true ability.

      It would help if all schools were deemed ‘good schools’ as surely they all should…

    • Laura Devonish
      Laura Devonish April 28, 2017 at 4:52 pm

      Go to school in your zone . Have an enriched class for math and English. Live goes on!!!

    • Carolyn Gill Humphrey
      Carolyn Gill Humphrey April 28, 2017 at 5:28 pm

      But our zones aren’t good – they’d have to redraw them. Our schools aren’t evenly spread either. The catchment area surrounding HC, for example, is mostly low-income housing – what will that do to a school with a few hundred years of pride and history as a high-achieving institution? Not saying that high-income is necessary for a school like HC, but there is a culture of wanting to learn at a school like that, and I fear that too much intake of students who couldn’t care less would completely change the school. With the newer schools it isn’t an issue – there is no long history there to mess with. Maybe certain traditional high-achieving schools could have their own entrance exams that one could sit to get into any form (which would allow cross-movement between them and other schools when children are ready, even if it’s as late as form 3) and the rest would just be zone allocation according to your address like in the US and Canada i.e. no exam necessary. Just one way to tackle it.

  3. Valerie Knight
    Valerie Knight April 28, 2017 at 1:09 pm

    Why should the 11 plus be scrapped, children in the U.K take it.

    • Laura Devonish
      Laura Devonish April 28, 2017 at 4:54 pm

      Children in Canada and US, do not take it!!

    • Joey St
      Joey St April 28, 2017 at 4:59 pm

      very good reason to be follow pattern…a traditional bajan

    • Laura Devonish
      Laura Devonish April 28, 2017 at 5:35 pm

      Read the original post!!!

    • Melanie April 29, 2017 at 7:24 pm

      The UK does not have the 11+ exam. This was scrapped in 1976. Some children may VOLUNTARILY sit the 11+ if they wish to access one of the very few remaining grammar /selective schools that exist in a few parts of the country.

      Theresa May, the British PM, is currently getting blasted for wanting to bring back grammar schools because every piece of research shows their highly negative impact on social mobility as well as the divisiveness they create in society, and the poor educational outcomes inflicted surrounding non-selective schools. British politicians only need to spot their eye on the effect of the 11+ system in this country to see the deleterious effect it has on a society.

  4. Beverley Hunte-Springer
    Beverley Hunte-Springer April 28, 2017 at 2:28 pm

    Leave it just where it is. I did it and it is the fairest means of placing children into high schools. This is Barbados & if it were to change you would have slow children of rich parents being placed into the top schools.

    • Judy Stanford
      Judy Stanford April 28, 2017 at 2:42 pm

      spoken by someone who knows nothing about education!!!

    • Beverley Hunte-Springer
      Beverley Hunte-Springer April 28, 2017 at 2:44 pm

      You know nothing about me to be bold enough to make that uninformed statement.

    • Jennifer Greaves
      Jennifer Greaves April 28, 2017 at 3:18 pm

      Rich people children are going there anyway if they want to.And poor people children are going,and too many of them are leaving schools like
      Combermere uncertified.

    • Beverley Hunte-Springer
      Beverley Hunte-Springer April 28, 2017 at 4:35 pm

      BT put the statement out for our opinions. Why am I not seeing the pros & cons. Instead one’s opinion is being criticized. I am staying with my opinion.

    • Joey St
      Joey St April 28, 2017 at 4:56 pm

      Scrap all exams, you don’t need them, just transfer the children to the school closest to where they live

    • Beverley Hunte-Springer
      Beverley Hunte-Springer April 28, 2017 at 4:58 pm

      Nope. It stays as is.

  5. Samantha Best April 28, 2017 at 2:58 pm

    Because the system does not cater to students with dyslexia does not mean we should abandon the 11plus exam. We need to ensure that dyslexic students are taken care of and there are teachers trained to teach them.

    Imagine there was a review of the syllabus at the St.George Secondary School,teachers agreed to it with the previous principal and now they are up there crying over the same syllabus!

    We all know that the children there scored less than 30% unless the parents filled out the form incorrectly. Hence it is an opportunity for remedial work to be undertaken. Train the teachers to teach these children with special needs so that they are not ashamed to say they are teaching at St. George Secondary School.; and that neither the students nor the teachers do not act out their frustrations on each other.

  6. Anderson Steven
    Anderson Steven April 28, 2017 at 3:31 pm


  7. Antonio Cozier
    Antonio Cozier April 28, 2017 at 3:40 pm


  8. Eugene Lavine
    Eugene Lavine April 28, 2017 at 3:58 pm

    Every year so all the time. Stupse!

  9. Ras Unjay
    Ras Unjay April 28, 2017 at 4:17 pm

    Leave the 11+ its the best way,this push I feel originated with a female a stupid poor great woman

  10. Laura Devonish
    Laura Devonish April 28, 2017 at 4:56 pm

    Get rid of the 11+, have children and their parents full of nerves. School zoning similar to primary school . Have enrich classes for English and math.Viola!!!

  11. Mechell Springer
    Mechell Springer April 28, 2017 at 6:49 pm

    Every year, once a year, wunna wid de same argument stupes do!!!

  12. Batdogg Batdogg
    Batdogg Batdogg April 28, 2017 at 9:09 pm


  13. Risa Ndm Rouse
    Risa Ndm Rouse April 28, 2017 at 9:09 pm

    U can’t just scrap it without thinking of something better first. It is very stupid in my opinion to send a child to the closest school to their home UNLESS there will be diff levels of teaching for kids in every year. Anyone who says diff is ignorant to the FACT that placing a “slower” child in a fast pace learning environment will not only hurt their grades but their self confidence. Also, placing a “faster” child in slow place class will stop them from achieving their full potential.
    What should be an option should be special training for teachers depending on the school their at. Meaning all children do the same cxc’s but while Jonny may know 75+75=150, Sarah would only understand if it says $0.75+ $0.75= $1.50. If doesn’t mean Sarah is dumb just that diff children need to be taught differently.

  14. Tony Waterman April 29, 2017 at 11:36 am

    George Bush got rid of Saddam Hussein, they got rid of Moamar Kadafyh, etc, and with the Vaacum that was left, we are or should be quite aware of what happens when we get rid of the KNOWN for the UNKNOWN and leave a Vacuum.

    JOEY:How do you know that they are going to fail?? perhaps they would take the exam and pass, so how would you know unless they did take the exam???

    Ras Unjay: Not according to Joey, his answer is “NO EXAM” i must wonder though!!!! What Happens when?If they do get through High School without exams, what happens to them when they arrive at say!!! Oxford/Cambridge/UofT/Ottawa U/UWI, No exams either???????

    Carolyn Gill Humphrey!!!You must be always in Fear of Something, because things Change Daily, it appears that you are suggesting that with your fears you are still the one to verify that the changes are done right.

    Sue Ward!!!! How would one know the Child’s ability without Testing Them?? That’s also how it was done waaaaay back in Barbados also, i took that Test also about 62 Years ago, and Got 75% and still had to wait for a placement as the scores were very high that year, went to Combermere.

    THe PERCEIVED problem is NOT the 11+ Examination, it is the PARENTS of the Students, who think that if the push their charges to the extreme, they will end up at Harrison College, Lodge, etc etc.
    My Mom, walked me to the Exam Center, kissed me on my Cheek, wished me well, and went back Home, Todays Parents are Packing Lunches and Camping out at the Exam Centers, which puts more Pressure on the Examinees, and that should be Stopped.

    Carolyn Gill Humphrey!!!!Are you really Cognisant of what you have written, that is outright Discrimination by SOCIAL STANDING, to say that Studends from the Catchment area around HC should NOT be allowed to go there because of their Circumstances, whats WRONG with you, i thought that this type of Discrimination went out with Independence.guess not!!!!If what you say holds true then the Lad who went to Foundation with my Brother, and Headed Canes with his Mother, would have never became a Foudation Student and subsequently a Doctor of some International Renoun, you seem to me to have an agenda of some kind.FYI!!! In the US and Canada, I reside in North America, Thousands of Children DROP Through the Cracks in That system DAILY, and they end up un JAIL or DEAD from Fentanoyl Overdoses, not much in the system you are advocating.
    Ask Dr.Goddard (Bajan) in Toronto, he works/Worked for the Greater Toronto
    Area School Board.

    Risa Ndm Rouse!!!!!AT LAST, some one who is thinking!!!!!!!


  15. stephanie rice April 29, 2017 at 5:40 pm

    leave it alone


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