The Democratic Labour Party (DLP) wants to know what is the next step in light of the grave breach of privacy of students and their families by the alleged “Computer Science pre-test” conducted by code.org and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
Deeming the pre-test “a survey, not a test” to gather data on Barbados’ population with first-form students between the ages of 10 and 12 years old as unethical, DLP Education Chair Melissa Savoury-Gittens wants government officials to step forward and speak up on how this could have happened under the watchful eye of the Ministry of Education (MOE).
Referring to the prime minister’s speech on the world stage recently about morals and ethics, she asserted, “Yet this slide through your front door!”
supposed this was a food programme and it contained poison, how could ‘Sorry’ be enough?
Acknowledging that in the apology issued by the IDB for “inadvertently” leaving in the questions earmarked by the MOE for removal, Savoury-Gittems explained that she understands teachers and other adults were given the “pre-test” as much as three weeks ago and they flagged the questions as intrusive and out of line, yet some were told “these are the answers they want”. Also, she said that she was reliably informed that the students were informed they had to answer all of the questions – “you must finish it”.
Having re-read the IDB brief statement, which was issued last night (October 5), Savoury-Gittens is not pleased with the fact that the statement does not indicate that in light of the issues raised by rightfully so irate and annoyed parents and guardians the data will be destroyed, but instead, the IDB basically communicated that the questions which were to be removed have been removed now and this implies the next cohort of students to take the “pre-test” will not be subjected to those questions. Noting, this not only raises the question of ethics, but this could taint the data as one set of students wrote a different pre-test to others to come, she urged that this cannot be the only solution on offer to appease and placate parents.
Amongst her other pertinent questions that she wishes to hear or see answered speedily, Savoury-Gittens asked where were the permission slips for guardians before the survey was given? Why was the Ministry not privy to seeing the final copy with the questions removed as requested before it was administered? Why call it a test and not a survey? Will students be disadvantaged according to the responses? Will the data collected be used still? Is the data being sold internationally? Will nothing happen to the IDB? Is this story going to blow over in a few days and nothing is done? Is this data collection part of the exchange between government and the IDB for the $40 million loan for education?
Savoury-Gittens said that for the six hours daily that students are in the care of the MOE at school, parents want to know their children’s best interests are at heart. They wish to know that no harm will befall their child. They wish to know their children will not be traumatised. She said, “supposed this was a food programme and it contained poison, how could ‘Sorry’ be enough?” She said these questions about sexuality, gender identity, depression, self-harm and even suicide could have poisoned children’s minds and attitudes and have lasting repercussions depending on their personalities.