President of the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU) Mary Redman is concerned the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) is forcing students and teachers who are already struggling to cope with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic to complete the examination syllabus by the middle of the year.
Recently, the regional testing body gave the green light for the face-to-face sitting of Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate
(CSEC) and Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) tests in June and July. However, in a statement, Redman said BSTU believed that students nor teachers should be made to suffer in an attempt to try and have students achieve the impossible of completing the CXC syllabi by June.
“CXC itself admits that this is an unprecedented crisis and CXC acknowledges its disastrous effects in the region, yet it has decided to go ahead with an exam timetable delayed by only one month. So exams are now scheduled to be sat between June and July as opposed to the normal May/June. There has been no reduction in the syllabus content to be taught to students to properly prepare them for these exams,” Redman said.
She added: “There has been no change in the structure of Paper 2 to include the choices for example that BSTU recommended. CXC cites it would be a problem because issues of equivalencies could now be raised if they seek to add choices in Paper 2. What the BSTU finds confounding is CXC had no problem with equivalency issues when they totally removed Paper 2 from the exam last year.
“CXC is continuing with the exams with no consideration of an increased number of multiple-choice questions from which to choose the normal number of required items.”
Redman said BSTU wrote the Ministry of Education on September 17 and December 21, 2020, advising that if the CXC examinations had to take place in this COVID-19 environment, then there were some modifications that should take place.
“We asked that students have delayed submission dates for SBAs. We asked that students who choose to sit the exam that those exam dates be put back to July/August. We asked that if possible, there be an alternative form of assessment for students’ alternative to CXC something in keeping with, perhaps what England has done, that some other way of assessing students be considered separate and apart from CXC exams this year,” she said.
The president indicated that at a meeting with the Ministry of Education last week, the union was advised that CXC would make the general topics to be included on the examinations available to students three weeks prior to exams.
However, Redman said the BSTU has asked that the proposed period of three weeks be expanded to six weeks before the exam. She said the union has also asked that students have the choice to defer from doing the exam six weeks prior to the set dates.
Redman offered some examples of hindrances to student education in the present environment including inadequate access to devices to enable online learning, significant loss of teaching time and poor internet access. She also argued that there were students who have lost loved ones to COVID-19 and are living in households where there are no breadwinners. She said home economics teachers complained that for the first time, many students did not have the financial resources to purchase the ingredients to complete their SBAs.
“So we have a slew of concerns, those are just some that have directly impacted the ability of students and teachers to do what is necessary in this COVID environment. And of course, I have left for the last, the very negative impact of the 2020 CXC results fiasco, a matter that has not yet been properly addressed in the minds of the public, in the minds of the children who have to sit those exams, or in the minds of the teachers who have to prepare those students,” she said.