Published 5 October 2022
Buckie Got It St. Kitts and Nevis News Source
Article by Randy Bennett
The Ministry of Education, Technological and Vocational Training has come under fire for reportedly circulating a test to first form students which has been described as “distasteful and invasive” by some parents.
The exam, which was administered on Monday at secondary schools across the island, was purported to be a “pre-test on Computer Science” formulated by an organisation called code.org.
However, parents complained to Barbados TODAY that their children were quizzed on their sexuality, gender identity, substance use and abuse as well as personal information about their parents.
The pre-test contained close to 300 questions and lasted for two hours.
Teaching staff were notified of the test via a memorandum last week.
“Please be informed that all 1st formers will take the pre-test in Computer Science organised by code.org. The proposed date is Monday, October 3, 2022, at 9:30 a.m. This session will run for two hours.
“The process has been sanctioned by the Ministry of Education, Technological and Vocational Training and code.org will provide the personnel to supervise the examinations,” the memo stated.
Parents only learnt about the details of the test from their children, some of whom were “rattled and highly uncomfortable” about the questions that were asked.
Repeated efforts to reach Minister of Education, Technological and Vocational Training, Kay McConney and Chief Educational Officer Dr Ramona Archer-Bradshaw proved unsuccessful up to press time.
Leanna Carter, whose daughter complained to her after taking the test, told Barbados TODAY she had already written a letter to the school’s principal about the incident.
The parent said she was contemplating taking legal action as her daughter was still a minor and no permission had been given for her to take such a test. She expressed her absolute shock that an exam of that nature would be sanctioned by the Ministry of Education.
“I didn’t know about it until my daughter got home, but I honestly think that some person needs to be held accountable for this. These are 11-year-old students and some of these questions in my opinion, planted seeds in their heads. Do you think a child is thinking what gender they want to be? Asking children questions like if they think about sex often and if they take illegal drugs without their parents knowing, all of that was distasteful!
“But my main issue with it is that it was disguised under the name Computer Science test. The one thing the ministry is supposed to do within the hours the children are at school is to protect them emotionally, mentally. That is unethical,” Carter stated.
She said to make matters worse the children were asked to write their names on the paper.
“I would like the script that my daughter’s name is on, destroyed and torn up immediately or I am going to seek legal advice. She is a minor. Neither her father nor I gave them authority or signed any document for this to happen,” Carter said.
Another parent who requested anonymity said his son had been traumatised by the test.
“Why would a Computer Science test be asking children if they think about sex a lot and if they are happy with their gender? That has absolutely nothing to do with the subject and I am demanding that the Ministry of Education give us an explanation as to why it was administered to young, impressionable children,” the irate father said.
A frustrated mother also condemned the test.
“This incident was an absolute breach of trust as it was shrouded in deception from the beginning. Under the guise of a Computer Science test, first formers were subjected to a gruelling, unethical survey which not only asked intrusive personal questions about themselves but also their parents.
“The survey was psychologically harmful and asked questions that can be triggering for some students. What was more, there was no counselling or debriefing after this “test”. You ask 10 and 11-year-olds if they ever think about killing themselves, if they are depressed, if they think about sex, and then send them back to class?! Madness! I am livid! I want answers and I want that survey destroyed. My consent was not given! I want to know what this information will be used for and by whom will it be used? Why was this insidious method employed?” she questioned.
The website of code.org states that it is a non-profit organisation dedicated to expanding participation by young students from underrepresented groups. The website led by Hadi and Ali Partovi encourages students to “Learn computer science. Change the world”.
Code.org claims that 67 million students and two million teachers utilise its website, leading to over 216 million projects being created.