EDITORIAL - Uncommon entrance


It was scarcely surprising to learn that the private secondary schools had managed to cop most of the places among the top twenty scores in the recent Barbados Secondary Schools Entrance Examination. Our first hint that there had been a firm change in the old order came from the reluctance of the Minister himself to disclose the top ten scores as he is wont to do at the annual press conference to publicise and analyse the results of the examination. 
The institutional provenances of the top performers this year certainly mark a change from the early days of the examination when public establishments such as Wesley Hall Boys’, Charles F Broome and Wilkie Cumberbatch Primary, among others, consistently provided the top performers.
Unlike some, we do not view this phenomenon as an indictment of  the public institutions themselves, but rather as a vindication of realities of the private schools where there is, quite naturally, a lower and hence more conducive to instruction pupil-teacher ratio, and where pupils are more likely than not to come from more academically disciplined households in which reading material consists of more than the daily newspaper, and where there is perhaps less distraction from popular entertainments such as television.
When we factor into this equation the notions of peer group pressure and sibling rivalry to perform as well as my older friend or sister or brother did when it was their turn, we have a clear formula for the likelihood of a higher level of performance from the private school pupil than the girl or boy from the 
public establishment.
Of course, this impressionistic analysis is not of universal application and both instances of, and exceptions to it can be highlighted. There will always be the outlier from the public school who will be exceptional on the day, as there will be the private school pupil who will then be at best mediocre despite the comparatively favourable circumstances of his or her situation. 
Not that we are entirely persuaded by the view that the level of performance in this examination is a conclusive determinant of future academic or professional success. We have had far too many examples of those who performed at a merely average standard in the BSSEE going on to achieve eminence in their chosen careers, while there are as many instances of BSSEE high achievers who appear to have reached their zenith with their performance in the examination. Again, as with the public school/private school discussion above, it may be more a matter of likelihood rather than certainty of outcome. 
So that while a good performance in the examination may, all things being equal, inure to continued achievement, it is equally valid that an average 
performance will not automatically lead to a life of professional mediocrity. At the same time as we accept that eleven is an absurdly early age at which to predict or determine academic ability, it is also to be borne in mind that the environment in which one is placed may also be a significant contributor to future development. Thus, while the prevailing ethos of the classroom has a dominant role to play, the domestic circumstances of the individual matter as well.
Alas, there appears to be at large in modern Barbados the phenomenon of “dumbing down”;  where there is an increasing reluctance and laziness to venture beyond one’s comfort zone in respect of concepts, vocabulary and much else besides, and to trust only to what one already knows, has heard from others similarly situated or has learnt from television sources. This is simply an abdication of one’s civic 
responsibility and one that probably explains the alarming phenomenon of Trumpism in the US.                 

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