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Are you okay with your high-school children being asked about their gender identity, sexual and drug-use habits in a school test?

Posted: Monday, October 10, 2022. 10:57 am CST.

By Alexis Milan: The Ministry of Education, Technological and Vocational Training of Barbados and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) have apologized following outrage and fury of parents upset that first-form students were administered a survey that included questions described as invasive and highly inappropriate for children of their age. It was also disclosed that the same survey was also reportedly administered here in Belize, but unless the events in Barbados made international headlines, would anyone in Belize have ever known?

Barbados Education Minister, Kay McConney said “we accept our responsibility for this unfortunate situation,” in a press conference held on Saturday. Barbados Chief Education Officer Dr. Ramona Archer-Bradshaw also disclosed during that press conference that the test was also administered by the IDB in Belize and elsewhere in the Caribbean. The test was given to over 700 students at five schools in Barbados.

Last week, the IDB expressed regret that a survey it administered to children in the Barbados secondary school system had offended many citizens, saying it sincerely apologizes, but no offense was intended.

“The questions at the center of concern, to which the Ministry of Education had objected prior to the administering of the survey and which were inadvertently left in the paper, have been removed,” the IDB said, adding that it recognizes its position as a development partner with the Barbados government “with a long and mutually respectful relationship”.

It said it wanted to assure “Barbadians it would not deliberately engage in any practice that would harm that relationship”.

The test in question was meant to be a “Computer Science Pre-Test”. Instead, the test, based on circulating documents, proved to be a 253-question quiz with only 86 questions focusing on math, English, and other school curriculum competency while the first 167 questions asked for deeply invasive and personal details about the children and their parents, including questions about whether any of the students ever felt confused about their gender identity, whether they ever contemplated suicide or self-harm or used drugs for recreational purposes without their parent’s knowledge and if they spend a lot of time thinking about sex. It also asked for details about parents such as marital status and information about their level of education and employment.

Outraged parents in Barbados expressed their anger over the situation to local newspapers, with some even considering legal action as the children are minors and no consent was sought from parents before this kind of survey was given. Making matters even worse, the children were made to write their names on the survey.

“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,” one parent told Barbados TODAY.

“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,” another 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 Barbados Ministry of Education was adamant that it had seen the survey before-hand but had specifically requested that those questions be removed from the test. The IDB claims the questions were inadvertently left in and the Barbados government said it has stated in no uncertain terms that it does not wish to continue partnering with the consultants the IDB hired in the implementation of this test. Those consultants were not named. Questions, however, now linger as to whether or not similar surveys may have been slipped into other tests administered to children.

Breaking Belize News (BBN) has reached out to both the Minister of Education and the CEO in the Ministry of Education locally for clarification and confirmation if the same test was indeed administered to Belizean students, however, the only response we have yet been given by the CEO is: “Thanks for reaching out. Will share a statement as soon as possible.”

Without further clarification, it begs these questions: If this test was indeed given here in Belize who approved it? And why was it not met with the same level of resistance that is was met with by the Barbados Ministry of Education? Why were parents not informed and why was no consent sought? What is the intention of asking such questions? Who will use this information and for what purpose?

Now we await a response.

 

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