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OPINION | WILL IT BE MONEY OVER THE LIVES OF OUR STUDENTS FOR CXC?

I am currently of the opinion that CXC prefers to satisfy it’s major stakeholders if it means possibly sacrificing the futures of this year’s students.

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The region is currently dealing with the repercussions of a major global pandemic which has already claimed over 3 million lives. Furthermore, here in St.Vincent and the Grenadines, we are facing the effects of an ongoing volcanic eruption (to which an end is nowhere in sight), a dengue fever outbreak and a huge economic crisis. More and more persons’ are being displaced everyday, more homes are being destroyed and families broken. It is altogether a very difficult situation for our country yet the Ministry of Education and CXC are still discussing the logistics behind having examinations. Considering the current circumstances, I think that the fact that this decision is happening is a topic in need of discussion. 

Last year’s students undoubtedly had less on their plate than this year’s students and yet they were given a substantial change in examination structure. One must ask why aren’t this year’s students given even close as much aid by CXC considering that their situation is much, much worse?

There are significant obvious problems which would arise if examinations should be held which I wish to highlight a few of.

Our primary and secondary schools are used as the CXC examination centres but due to the ongoing volcanic eruption they are currently being utilized as shelters to house displaced families and persons, and will be in use for some substantial time. Students who sit examinations are even in some of these shelters. This brings to light the issue of where does CXC intend for our students to sit exams in an environment that is both safe and comfortable as to not affect student’s performance? 

Another issue is the ongoing Covid and Dengue outbreaks. Let’s say examination centres are found or organized, students of primary schools will undoubtedly be unable to follow the protocols which CXC, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health may outline not to mention that just packing our students into classrooms is already a great hazard to health itself. How will the Ministry of Education and CXC ensure the safety of our students? Are they really willing to risk the lives of our children simply to make them put pen to paper?
The final problem I wish to address are the problems with online learning and the inability to cover the respective syllabi. E-learning has long been purported to be a major step in the education system. As a result of the COVID-19 virus, the adoption of this type of learning has been heavily expedited. I strongly believe that we were not ready for this especially so abruptly. Many students don’t even have access to the necessities needed to attend class, at one of the country’s “top schools,” class attendance is sometimes below 50%. It most definitely must also be noted that due to the pace at which online learning takes place many teachers have been unable to complete the syllabus and never will because they are currently the ones at shelters assisting with situations. There are many, many more issues which can be highlighted but I believe that these are the major ones.

CXC’s Solutions

CXC have implemented two policies which they claim aim to help students. I wish to poke holes in these strategies. These are the Deferral Policy and the release of topics to students prior to examinations.

The Deferral Policy- As quoted on CXC’s website, “CXC has also implemented a facility for candidates to defer sitting examinations and submitting School Based Assessments (SBAs), until the January 2022 (CSEC) or the May/June 2022 (CAPE, CSEC and CCSLC) examinations cycle.” This policy attempts to give students who are not prepared the opportunity to sit exams next year. I, however, believe the deferral policy in a time like this may actually create a lot more problems than solutions. Our schools are already quite overcrowded and let’s say because of the current crisis a substantial number of students defer, how would schools be able to cater for the students who remain for an additional yet while still catering to the large influx of new students?

The Release of Topics- CXC intends to release topics of the Paper 2 exams (the long paper) on May 10th, 5 weeks before the commencement of exams. This would be an all around good strategy if the syllabus was adequately covered but it is not. CXC is essentially releasing topics to students who may not even know what these topics are or how to go about learning them. This measure is only slightly helpful but does not take any substantial step to rectifying the problems.

My Solution Proposal

One must be reminded that it doesn’t not make sense to críticize if a better solution cannot be devised. I will state what I consider to be better solutions. These are not having exams or making them optional.

Optional Examination- This is what I strongly believe is the best solution given the current circumstances. Exams should be made optional in my opinion. In a case where a student chooses not to do exams then their SBA grades and their teachers’ predicted grades will be used. The predicted grade is a grade assigned to students based on their academic performances at their respective school. In the event that a student believes that their predicted grade is not a fair representation of their academic ability they may choose to sit Paper 1 examinations in which case that grade will be used.

Not Having Exams- In light of the current situation another solution I am open to is that students should not be required to sit exams. Instead SBA grades could be solely used to determine their respective grades.

The administering of Paper 1 exams like last year is another option but that is going to be affected by all of the major problems I stated so while it is an option, I don’t think it’s a good solution. However, for persons who are doing additional subjects (outside subjects) a P1 examination could be administered.

Conclusion 

Our country is currently facing a crisis, people’s lives are at risk, homes are being destroyed and yet students are being forgotten in one of the most crucial times to their futures. CXC’s only solution to the worst regional crisis of the century thus far is to release topics 5 weeks early to students who have been unable to complete their syllabi. Their only other measure they have put in place is the option to defer which only worsens many of the education system’s major issues. I, therefore, think that the Ministry of Education really needs to look into this. Also as parents it is important that we awareness is brought to this issue as it truly seems like it’s money over lives for CXC. CXC prefers to satisfy it’s major stakeholders if it means possibly sacrificing the futures of this year’s students.

Another question also arises; Is it time for our Caribbean governments to consider leaving the profit-maximizing CXC in the past?

By Awool Woods

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