Anglican Church deeply concerned over controversy over Department for Education inquiry
The Anglican Church is very concerned about the incident related to the “intention and effect of the test” which was allegedly administered to some secondary school students on Monday October 3, Bishop Michael Maxwell has said.
In a video message, Maxwell said that “although it was described as an IT pre-test”, some of the questions reported in the press and on social media, “appear to go beyond standard demographic information”.
According to Maxwell, best practice dictates that testing on human subjects, especially minors, always be subject to the oversight of an ethics body responsible for ensuring “no unintended harm is done”, and also with the consent of parents or guardians.
“In this case, it’s safe to say that the damage has been done, both in the present and in the future,” Maxwell said.
Last Monday, first-year students from five of the island’s secondary schools had to answer a survey as part of a computer test. The survey included invasive questions that many believe violated the students’ right to privacy.
The five schools involved in the investigation were; Princess Margaret Secondary School, St George Secondary, Graydon Sealy Secondary, Queen’s College and Coleridge and Parry School. A total of 733 children responded to the survey.
Maxwell expressed the Anglican Church’s deep concern over the situation, ‘which involves a very significant demographic within our society’, adding that it should be addressed constructively ‘to ensure it does not happen again. never an incident of this nature”.
“Legally, ethically and practically, parents or guardians should have been informed and consent sought so that families had the choice to opt out of such an exercise,” he said.
“This is particularly important because in the age of data privacy and based on what has been reported so far, the information collected from these students appears to be deeply personal and sensitive and could have been used against them.”
Maxwell said the following issues need to be raised and addressed:
- Why was the test not reviewed by a Ministry of Education official before final administration, given initial objections reported in a number of areas?
- Would the test now be administered to other children with the removal of questionable items? If so, what is the ultimate validity and robust nature of the results?
- Does the Ministry of Education have a standard ethics body responsible for creating guidelines and/or overseeing the testing of all students in its care?
- What arrangements will now be made for the mental health care of participants who have been harmed by their participation in the survey, and who will fund this treatment?
According to Maxwell, the case goes beyond an issue of offensive questions, “and can very well be described as an act of abuse and a larger agenda being pursued.”
He said an apology should not be the final resolution to this matter.
At a press conference on Saturday, Minister of Education, Technology and Skills Training, Kay McConney, said: “I recognize that the ministry’s apology is not enough, that the Inter-American Bank’s apology is not enough. not, that while the Prime Minister of Barbados condemned the issues in his presentation yesterday, that too is not enough…this situation calls for clear action that will not only address some of the immediate hurt that has occurred, but will also put this ministry on a footing to be able to do better forward.”
According to Maxwell, in most developed countries, this case would immediately lead to legal action.
“Children are the most precious gift and resource for the nation and our families. They must be protected when entrusted by parents to the care of educators, carers, and I must add the church, we must all understand that we are in loco parentis and therefore most do whatever is in our power to protect them physically, mentally. and socially against evil and danger,” Macwell said.
Journalist Shamar Blunt contributed to this story.