Students in mainstream Barbadian schools work at year level. This means that they follow the Barbados National Curriculum, supported by National Attainment Targets. Students are expected to complete the syllabus for a particular subject, sit a year-end examination in June, and be promoted based on these results.
There are subjects in which the student is strong academically, is challenged academically, or where there are higher or lower interest levels. Examination grades do not take into account where students have missed crucial information due to illness, the quality of teaching, or any other factor which impedes the satisfactory completion of the curriculum.
When students transfer to Lockerbie College, our detailed admission process looks critically at each student’s proficiency levels across all subjects. Lockerbie College then creates a customised programme of study for each student, which takes him/her back to the individual levels of subject proficiency. It’s from those levels that we start to build meaningful knowledge through offering academic support to ensure that there are no loopholes in foundational information.
Backtracking to proficiency levels will certainly take time, it always requires in-depth analysis of each student’s profile and it can increase the tuition cost in the short term. However, just as houses built on sand will fall, new knowledge placed on patchy understanding or incomplete competencies, will never allow students to be in a position where they can excel. Returning to proficiency, and building from there, is the only way forward.
The truth is that more often than not, academic results and a student’s sense of achievement and self-worth are closely intertwined. In raising one, the other follows.
CHALLENGING THE GIFTED AND TALENTED
It is worth mentioning that when we look at the proficiency levels of some students, we see incredibly high achievement and ability. Proficiency surpasses what is expected at a certain age or class level. These students are gifted and talented and to keep them challenged, they need to be taught above their class level. These students are placed in accelerated programmes of study in the subjects where they show high aptitude. Students at Lockerbie College sit exams when they are ready and some students are prepared for external examinations earlier than their chronological peers.
Such was the case with Tillie and Caleb Schneiderman who were visiting students from the USA. Tillie, at age 10, was working at age 13 proficiency level in Mathematics. We were able to respond to her needs and create courses that pushed her at the pace that was appropriate to her. In a normal classroom setting she would have been sidelined, forced to work at a proficiency well below what she could handle. This is not the Lockerbie way.
Finally, we answer the question: “What happens when abilities and proficiencies differ across subjects?” Invariably this does happen, and more often than many people realise. The student gifted in Mathematics is helped to ‘get ahead’, while he or she may be working alongside peers in other subjects. The student who is capable of working at chronological level in Chemistry may require some supplemental support in Physics. There are as many combinations as there are students and we create individualised programs to handle each situation.
DESIGNING FOR THE 'WHOLE CHILD'
When we look at the ‘whole child’ in this context we design and customise a programme where each student works at the correct level in each subject. Some subjects may be taught a year in advance of age, others at age level and some require additional support where we need to strengthen proficiency.
At Lockerbie College we realise that no two students are the same; no two academic journeys and no two timelines. No student is kept back, suffering boredom in the process and no student is pushed ahead, before they are ready, and set up to fail. We look at each student in his or her own right and customise learning for him or her because the journey to individual success is what is important.