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Monday 20 August 2018
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Commentary

The truth about SBAs

TTUTA

IN ITS latest advisory TTUTA reiterated to its members at the secondary school level that they should not mark School Based Assessments (SBAs) from September unless they are paid to do so.

If this is not a wake-up call for all stakeholders to critically and logically examine the entire process, then we can only anticipate the challenges that will be coming. This ongoing grievance can have far-reaching negative implications on the education system if not amicably resolved soon.

It cannot be denied that the SBA has been a critical part of the external examination structure. It was introduced in a number of practical subject areas in the early 80s as a means of testing skills and competencies that cannot be assessed on traditional paper and pencil tests.

It has now spread to all subject areas and represents 20 per cent (in most instances) of the final mark for the subject. The student must pass the SBA component in order to pass the subject.

All sectors in society have been weighing in on this discussion and rightfully so. The Caribbean Examination Council’s (CXC) outlook on this is fixed – it is the subject teachers’ responsibility and duty to mark the SBAs.

The Government has reiterated that teachers are responsible for the marking of the SBAs. The Education Minister is quoted as saying that the stance of the teachers union is “highly irresponsible” since this will lead to the failure of thousands of students and has referred the matter to the Attorney General and the Chief Personnel Officer for clarification.

The union’s stance is unambiguous. It believes it is just and fair for its members to be adequately compensated for the marking of the SBAs since it is an assessment tool of an external examination body. They have likened the marking of SBAs to the conduct of Spanish and French orals where the teachers are paid for their services.

It is imperative that the realities that face teachers must not be ignored. Teachers already have a lot on their agenda from lesson preparation, record-keeping, curriculum delivery, disciplining of students, fundraising, attending to students’ social needs to conducting in-house assessments.

Teachers are now bombarded and burdened with these extra duties. In most cases these duties cannot be performed during the normal school hours as the regular teaching duties must take precedence. The marking of SBAs is often done at home where teachers are forced to use their own resources including internet. It is very time consuming and teachers resort to doing this during late hours of night and into the early hours of the morning.

In some cases, where there is no, and often times unreliable, internet service in schools, principals are forced to make arrangements with other principals to accommodate and facilitate their teachers to complete this exercise.

Separate and apart from marking of SBAs is the issue of uploading of grades and samples. Errors made in this process carry a penalty of B$50 per child, per subject – imposed on the school.

It is ironic that a month after the April 23 deadline for the upload of all SBA grades and samples, the Supervisor of Examinations has asked principals to correct numerous errors that were identified by CXC. It is clear that very little effort was made on the part of CXC to ensure proper and comprehensive training was designed and offered to the teachers – the intimate users of its online registration system (ORS).

Teachers are obliged/obligated to employ their technical skills in an effort to mark and upload their grades and samples so that their charges would not be disadvantaged. Many teachers have felt challenged and intimidated in manoeuvring the ORS. Clearly, CXC simply abdicated its role in this regard. One may even concur that this dereliction of duty is an overt and blatant disrespect by CXC to the governments and teachers throughout the Caribbean.

With the realities of online learning and marking, it is agreed that the education system has evolved and must continue to become relevant and current in order to match up to futuristic demands. Intense discussions have begun and must continue. CXC must not continue to act like a business with anti-teacher-centred policies.

It should be noted that CXC pays people to second-mark uploaded samples but refuses to compensate teachers who mark the SBAs in the first instance.

Regional governments pay CXC for its service. Are they comfortable with this kind of exploitation? Was this their original vision when CXC was created?

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