One could only imagine the collective jubilation of Caribbean students, teachers, parents, friends and relatives with the news that the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) intends to delay this year’s Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) and the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) by three weeks.
It is the result of intense lobbying from the Caribbean Union of Teachers; parent advocate Paula-Anne Moore, the spokesman for the Caribbean Coalition for Exam Redress and Group of Concerned Parents of Barbados; the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union; and the Barbados Union of Teachers, all of whom were supported by regional governments, notably education ministers Fayal Williams of Jamaica and Barbados’ Kay McConney.
So the regional examination body has set the tests to start on May 23 in a bid to give students a fair shot at achieving their best grades after the disruption brought on by COVID-19.
Following a special meeting of CXC’s governing body, which includes member governments, Registrar Dr Wayne Wesley told journalists that “after careful deliberation and consideration of all the pertinent issues” the Council agreed on a revised strategy for the regional examination.
In addition to the May 23 start date, results are to be released in late August/early September; a two-week extension has been granted for submission of School-Based Assessments (SBAs) from June 30 for both CAPE and CSEC; and CXC will release broad topics to be assessed on Paper 2 for the candidates in two weeks.
According to Dr Wesley, these adjustments are in addition to concessions the council has already put in place such as a reduction in the SBA requirements by as much as 50 per cent in some subjects and allowing candidates to defer some or all of their exams to either January or June 2023.
These accommodations, we believe, are reasonable. But we urge CXC to rethink the timetable for the release of the broad topics. Two weeks will hardly benefit students. These topics should be published as soon as possible to allow for adequate study and preparation.
Dr Wesley noted that the exam body stands in solidarity with the region as it grapples with the impact of COVID-19 on “our way of life”.
We applaud CXC’s change of heart even at this late hour but this state of affairs could have been avoided.
It was unfathomable that after repeated cries from those at the centre of the process that students who have endured unprecedented learning fallout over the last two years were being asked to sit exams as if it was business as usual.
This was shocking in an environment where educators repeatedly confirmed the discovery of substantial learning deficits across the board, while stressing the need for programmes and time to get students back on track.
Students, teachers and parents must be given an A grade for standing their ground.
CXC’s turnaround will certainly go a long way in changing the perception that it is inflexible and solely focused on its delivery of tests.
We welcome Dr Wesley’s commitment that the exams body is working on a new policy that will more effectively address future school disruptions caused by events similar to the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said: “We took cognisance of the challenges that now exist in the region. Part of the solution going forward would be to make sure we articulate a policy that allows for the continual assessment and flexibility required in the system.
“So the policy is going to look at examination structure, the process used for the delivery of examinations and how safely you will be able to respond to the glaring needs across the region at the same time.”
He said that if and when it becomes necessary to shift dates of exams in the future, that decision will be taken collectively.
No doubt students, teachers and parents will hold CXC to its declared intention.
And now the ball is in the court of our students. None must let the victorious lobbying go to waste.
They must use the next three weeks wisely to push beyond their limits, for the ultimate reward is not official acquiescence but personal excellence.
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