President of the Guyana Teacher’s Union, Mark Lyte believes that the National Grade Six Assessment (NGSA), CSEC and CAPE exams can be pushed back to later dates due to the novel coronavirus.
Mr Lyte, in an interview with the News Room, spoke about the concerns for teachers and students during this time and why it would be wise to have the exams at a later date.
Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) Registrar and Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Wayne Wesley has confirmed that the CSEC and CAPE exams will take place in July 2020.
According to the timetables, the exams will begin on June 29 and conclude on July 24. The exams are held annually in May/June but have been pushed back due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We believe that the situation is still fluid as it relates to COVID-19 and that having examinations planned when countries have active cases of the coronavirus is dealing with this matter in a premature way,” My Lyte said.
He said the Union is aware that students and teachers are affected in several ways especially with the abrupt change to learning.
“This is something new for both the teachers and the students to be resorting themselves to online platform,” Mr Lyte said.
He further highlighted that when schools closed on March 13, students had outstanding six weeks of work to be competed from the academic syllabus in order to adequately prepare for these exams.
“We are also aware that in several parts of Guyana students cannot access online platforms.
“Many of the students who live in dorms in different schools especially in hinterland and riverine areas would have gone back to their homes and would have had not opportunity to complete the work in preparation for CXC,” Mr Lyte said.
According to Mr Lyte the Union had written the Ministry of Education since April about its concerns for CSEC and CAPE, particularly the scheduled time for the exams, the structure of the exam and COVID-19 concerns.
“We believe students in the Caribbean, or moreso Guyanese students, will be at a disadvantage to do just a paper 1 and the SBAs.
“We believe that Paper 2 provides an opportunity for students to express themselves in writing whereas a paper one is multiple choice only, where you are either right or wrong,” Mr Lyte explained.
The exams are scheduled to be done via the E-testing modality for schools that have access to the internet and technology. CXC has assured students who do not have internet access will write their exams through the paper-based modality.
The School Based Assessment, Paper One and where applicable Papers Two and Three, along with any additional assessment, will be used to assess the students and determine their final grade. According to CXC this was administered to preserve the integrity of the exams.
General Secretary of the Caribbean Union of Teachers, Don Howell, told the News Room that they are also advising the various education ministries of CARICOM countries to rethink the July date for the exams.
“They are number of issues that have to be dealt with by the respective ministries of education and they should be dealt with before rushing into reopening to facilitate the sitting of the exams,” Mr Howell said.
He also highlighted that many universities and colleges around the world are making accommodations for student entry into their institutions because they are aware of the situation with COVID-19 and the Caribbean can also adopt this.
“We believe, as the Caribbean Union of Teachers, that people’s lives, health and safety and the proper resources and support is far more important that rushing to sit the examinations,” Mr Howell stated.
Meanwhile as it relates to the NGSA Mr Lyte said approximately 40% of students are not being taught.
“As a Union we recognise that we are meeting less than 40% of the learners who are preparing for exams using an online platform.
“Its either some of them don’t have internet service or they don’t have the gadgets. That exam (NGSA) is a local exam and we would have a lot more authority to reschedule that exam,” Mr Lyte said.
In order to get students mentally and academically prepared, the GTU is recommending that the exams be held in October, 2020 and have the students start secondary school in January 2021.
“We look at a new academic year commencing in January and we have enough time for those children to complete their preparation for an October exam,” Mr Lyte explained.
All schools remain closed as Guyana continues to battle the spread of the deadly Coronavirus and the Teacher’s Union is further recommending that the schools be reopened September to complete the September 2019 – July 2020 academic year and start the new academic year in January with only two terms.
Mr Lyte also noted that the Union is providing support for teachers during this pandemic however it has been a challenge to teach during this time with no internet access, no computers and also learning to use a new platform of teaching.
“There have been numerous reports where teachers have been unable to teach, though they are willing, mainly because they don’t have internet connection.
“Some of them don’t have computer and it’s difficult to teach on your phone.”