Minister of Education Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly said the reactions by education stakeholders to the Caribbean Examination Council’s (CXC) announcement on Thursday, allowing students to defer their examinations and SBAs, have been mixed.
Gadsby-Dolly was responding to Newsday via WhatsApp message on Friday.
She said. “There is no doubt that this cohort has faced challenges, to which some would have been able to adjust better than others.”
She said further to CXC's decisions, the situation in St Vincent and the Grenadines, since the eruption of the La Soufriere volcano last Friday, is a new development and any further adjustments deemed necessary to accommodate students on the island should be considered.
“Those recommendations would have come from SVG, and the region should be in support of any reasonable measure to assist those students.”
On Thursday, CXC released a statement saying after extensive consultations with regional ministries of education, it will allow students to defer sitting exams and submitting SBAs until the January 2022 – Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) – or May/June 2022 – Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Exam (CAPE), CSEC, and the Caribbean Certificate of Secondary Level Competence (CCSLC) – examination cycles.
Gadsby-Dolly said the decision was taken a few months ago after consultations with all ministries of education of the region.
“We believe it is necessary for students who do not consider themselves ready to take the exams in 2021, based on the circumstances.”
She said the accommodations agreed on at the time were made with the best interest of the students in mind, considering all perspectives.
Gadsby-Dolly also said some may want to take advantage the opportunity to defer, while others may not.
Principal of Fatima College Fr Gregory Augustine said students at the school have already submitted their SBAs and no one chose to defer.
He said unlike last year, students have been in virtual classes for the past year.
“We are confident that these boys are ready (for exams),” he said, adding that other than the normal concerns and anxieties experienced around exams, they are prepared.
Augustine also said although the school's students decided against them, deferrals pose some challenges.
“There is the reality that there is nowhere for them to go. If 40 students defer, for example, if students come back (to physical classes) in September, where are they going to sit down?”
He said public schools are already faced with space challenges. With the advancement of the lower classes and covid19 restrictions, there might not be room to accommodate deferring students.
As the ministry and stakeholders were aware of the changes since March, he said, they had time to inform the students. “The news is nothing new to us. The students were aware of it. We were aware of the changes for a while.”
Parent advocate for the remarking of CXC 2020 exams Sherry Sookoo told Newsday CXCs statement was a superficial display of concern.
“This is politics,” she said. “We knew about this since March 2, but CXC is making it look as if they are doing this because of the situation in SVG.”
Sookoo also questioned the council’s decision to release the broad topics for paper two, when paper one covers the entire syllabus.
“If paper one is covering the entire syllabus, what sense does it make to send out broad topics for paper two?
“The students still have to complete the entire syllabus. What then can a child do five weeks before exams to know the broad topics? It does not help the students in any way.”
Another concerned parent, who requested anonymity, said CXC is yet to fix many of the students’ grades from last year, affecting children applying to universities.
She said CXC's gesture is a pretence of goodwill.
“I would like to see real results,” she said. “I am very happy with the SVG situation (and) that goodwill is being shown to them. We expect no less.”
She added, however, for other Caribbean countries, it makes no difference.