The long road to exams

Photo courtesy Pixabay
Photo courtesy Pixabay

The announcement that CXC, CSEC and CAPE examinations would be scheduled for July brought to an end a long wait for students who would normally have been done with those exams months ago.

It hasn't been an easy time for them, many experiencing varied levels of continuing preparation during the downtime.

Much of the coaching offered has taken the form of revision exercises on multiple online and televised platforms, material provided by the Ministry of Education on multiple learning management systems, and depending on the ability and commitment of teachers to adjust to the demands of remote learning.

That these experiences have varied widely in quality and value is simply fact.

But students waiting to sit those examinations have an actual deadline.

SEA students are still waiting for their exam date, which may end up being pushed all the way down to December.

The actual exams are also an issue. Students waiting to sit CSEC will face exams largely crafted in multiple-choice format, which they have not been trained for.

The Caribbean Examinations Council’s (CXC) test papers have tended to call for expanded answers that cross-examine depth of learning.

For some subjects, such as literature and essay writing, the essence of the traditional exam will be gutted by the change.

The council has been challenged, in short order, to reconfigure critical examinations to meet the widely varied countries of the region which are at different stages of managing covid19, while creating an exam regime that is fair to all the students sitting it despite variances in technology adoption.

In August 2019, the council announced plans to digitally transform its regional secondary examinations, introducing on-demand testing and announcing an e-learning hub.

That learning tool – which has been ignored by the Ministry of Education – was a response to growing absenteeism in the January sitting of the CSEC exams, which registered high dropouts in 2018, peaking at 41 per cent for office administration and 37 per cent for English B.

Covid19-related disruptions are inevitable, but what was necessary was an action plan articulated by the Education Ministry which managed unusual circumstances, projected possible exam dates, monitored developments and actively worked backward from exam day to the current reality to chart a course that guided schools through a new regime of testing.

That hasn't happened, despite clear signals that exams this year were going to put new demands on students, teachers and the education system.

The Education Ministry’s response to these dramatic changes needed to be nimble and authoritative. It has instead offered muddled responses that have stymied educators and confused students.

The minister must demonstrate better command of a mercurial situation, for the sake of a cohort of young people put at a disadvantage by the pandemic.


"The long road to exams"

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