Is it time to reconsider CXC?

In this July 14, 2020 file photo St Mary's College students wait to enter a classroom for a CAPE exam in compliance with covid19 health guidelines. St Mary's is one of the schools that is querying the 2020 CXC results. - Vidya Thurab
In this July 14, 2020 file photo St Mary's College students wait to enter a classroom for a CAPE exam in compliance with covid19 health guidelines. St Mary's is one of the schools that is querying the 2020 CXC results. - Vidya Thurab

The Caribbean Examination Council, the regional body responsible for administering exams testing students leaving secondary schools across the Caribbean region, is facing hard questions about the results of the 2020 exams.

Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly acknowledged that at least ten schools have submitted formal queries to the ministry over results from this year's Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE), and Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) exams.

The examinations were subject to an unprecedented rescheduling due to covid19 restrictions, and parents and teachers have expressed concern about the impact of the delay and the end of in-person schooling since March.

Students were allowed to return to school for pre-examination study, but even that exercise proved a challenge, and several schools were forced to shut down after contact tracing led back to classrooms and all students and teachers had to self-isolate for two weeks.

Students, parents and teachers have complained that the results of the exams did not reflect student capacity as demonstrated in the classroom as well as in recent mock examinations.

A petition calling for a review of all the results of the 2020 examination on the website change.org has collected more than 17,000 signatures.

Meanwhile, the council is sticking to its guns, with CXC Registrar Dr Wayne Wesley seeing no need for a review.

"Overall the region registered improved performance for CAPE and CSEC," Dr Wesley said.

He believes that the majority of students have received "acceptable grades," though it's unclear what the term means.

That's little comfort for students who had been working for scholarships or preferred placement based on their examination performance.

There's no question that this was an extraordinary year for students facing examinations.

Every student might not have been prepared to ride out the demands placed on them.

Every examination is not the same, and the testing of capacity by different questions will sometimes offer up different results.

The challenges that the CXC faces in the wake of the 2020 examinations are really just a summary of the issues that arise in a final assessment system.

Condensing student achievement across several years of learning into a single exam per subject encourages cramming in the final student year while de-emphasising important indicators of talent and aptitude that the education process reveals.

Students, teachers and parents have an opportunity on a term by term basis to evaluate educational achievement in continuous assessment to tailor learning more usefully.

It's time to ditch the high-stakes final exam system in favour of a system of continuous assessment.

The 21st century needs adaptive, engaged thinkers and they aren't being developed reliably by the final exam qualification process.

Students need a new way to make their way in the world.

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"Is it time to reconsider CXC?"

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