By Vishani Ragobeer
Chairman of the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC), Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, has assured stakeholders that the examinations body has strived for fairness in its decision-making processes as the region’s education system grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Chairman said this in response to a recent statement issued by Caribbean representatives of the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), wherein calls were made for the adjustment of the the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) Examinations and the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations (CAPE) due to COVID-19.
Recommendations they offered include those offered before by the Caribbean Union of Teachers Union (CUT), including:
Paper 1 should only test rationalized topics that are tested in Paper 2 and not the entire syllabi as the said syllabi would not have been completed;
For Paper 2, remove all hurdles including compulsory questions and ensure that no one question item should test two or more content areas;
Extend the start of the examination by three weeks and release the rationalized board topics immediately to students and teachers in order to facilitate effective preparation.
Further, they called on Education Ministers in Caribbean countries to expand and intensify mental health and psychosocial support for children preparing for the examinations; confirm placement in schools and offset financial costs for children who defer sitting the examination until next year; and, clarify how the prevalence of COVID-19 cases will be taken into consideration.
Professor Beckles, during a virtual press conference on Wednesday, related that the body did see UNICEF’s release and that he has since engaged an UNICEF official that that release.
“Clearly, what UNICEF was doing was reflecting their own broad policy concern for children in the region,” Sir Beckles said.
He also explained that principles of fairness that UNICEF advocated for should be at the centre of all of the CXC’s decisions and that the body has strived to remain fair and cater for the vulnerable.
As such, he contended that some of the recommendations made through the statement were considerations already being explored by CXC.
“We were already, in the midst of all this dialogue, when the release was made… I was able to say to them (that) we were basically on the same page,” Professor Beckles said.
Importantly, in their statement, the UNICEF representatives acknowledged that efforts are being made by CXC to reduce certain examination requirements and make concessions for students.
Specifically on UNICEF’s call for psychosocial support for students and their readiness for the examination given the varying country experiences with the COVID-19 pandemic, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, explained that CXC is only an examination body.
As such, he said, the countries themselves would have been responsible for ascertaining whether their students are ready to take the examinations.