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Wednesday 18 October 2017
Editorial

Grade F for CXC

It is amazing that in this modern age the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) is still having trouble with the publication of results. Though challenges are expected from time to time, CXC must do a better job.

While vacation is a time of fun and leisure, anxious students who sat the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) and Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examination did not deserve the rollercoaster ride they were placed on last week.

CXC had assured results would be released on Friday night. But the system failed, with students accessing results on Saturday. What a merry-go-round!

Deepening the sense of confusion is the fact that the Ministry of Education had enough information to hold a press conference on Friday on the overall statistical trends revealed by the results. And one day prior, Education Minister Anthony Garcia himself spoke to these matters.

Both of these occasions were clearly meant as preludes to what was supposed to be the full unveiling of detailed results. That turned out not to be the case.

Responsibility for the release of results lays in the hands of CXC, Garcia clarified on Sunday. The Ministry of Education does not manage CXC’s website. It was reported that there was some difficulty due to the passing of Tropical Storm Harvey.

While CXC cannot be blamed for what is commonly referred to as an act of God, it can be blamed for not having a full-proof plan in place to deal with such a likely development.

Barbados is a Caribbean island. Each year the region has a hurricane season and the risk of a storm developing should be among the most basic matters considered when CXC develops its contingency plans.

So in this instance, we agree with the dismayed students who have expressed their dissatisfaction. CXC gets a failing grade.

The examinations body must account comprehensively to stakeholders for what went wrong. It must also put systems in place to prevent any repeat. Too much is at stake for this matter to not be treated with seriousness.

All examinations are inherently stressful processes. There is stress in the preparation, the actual examination and then the long wait for results. Adding to that anxiety places additional stress on students, parents and entire families at precisely the moment when all should be looking ahead to the next stage of life.

What is worse, the inability of CXC to live up to its word casts a pall over the integrity of the grading process. The failure to meet its own timetable only makes students and parents wonder what else has gone wrong behind the scenes, adding a whole new layer of disquietude.

And when the Ministry of Education – the receiving body – is in a position to brief on the overall details of the performance of the student body before the students themselves have seen their marks or had a chance to question them, the situation becomes needlessly confusing.

Instead, all agencies involved should be on the same page.

Not only must CXC solve the problem, it must be mindful of the need to constantly improve its systems. The modern Internet age is fast-moving. Systems must be refreshed on a regular basis to ensure the web portals used remain capable of supporting high-volume activity.

There is also the matter of security. In recent times there have been many high-profile cyber attacks, ranging from interference in the US presidential election to an attack on the website of the Scottish Parliament a few days ago.

CXC must do what it takes to earn a better grade next time around. It is hoped it has learned a valuable lesson this year.

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