THERE is a big question mark over whether the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC)’s choice of action in the wake of the leak of its Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) Mathematics Paper II is the correct one.
CXC on Friday announced it would simply scrap Paper II, which is traditionally the longer theory paper, and generate marks based on Paper I, which is the multiple choice paper, and Paper III, the teacher-marked school-based assessment.
“The nature of the exam remains the same, as all three papers are reflective of the syllabus coverage,” said CXC registrar Wayne Wesley. “Because we have used it in the past and it has worked, we are confident we are still able to offer valid grades.”
Not everyone shares this view, with teachers, parents and students expressing dissatisfaction. They note students have been preparing for examinations for years, under the assumption that the long paper would have been a major part of the assessment.
They also note the fact that students will miss the chance to pick up additional marks for demonstrating understanding of methodology and concepts.
There might be other reasons why things will be harder for students.
With candidates likely to score more highly on multiple-choice papers and SBAs generated outside an examination environment, including group projects, it will be harder to get a Grade I because of curved marking, some students feel.
Additionally, teachers think such results will not reflect genuine competencies and will generate problems when students enter workplaces that use math as part of their operations.
While the leak has been traced to Jamaica, the impact of the breach is being felt throughout the region. Teachers’ unions have noted the psychological effect of the leak, coupled with the voiding of an examination that students already made the effort to sit.
The last CXC mathematics paper leak, in 2008, was traced to Trinidad. Earlier this year, another major examination, the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA), was leaked while students sat it. While there were arrests in the former incident, we await the official outcome of a probe in relation to the latter.
Whoever is responsible for what has happened this time around should be penalised and protocols need to be beefed up. Having experienced a range of security issues over the years, CXC must carefully examine whether it is doing its best on this front, even factoring the human element in such breakdowns of the custody chain.
CXC has evidently assessed that scrapping the paper will cause the least harm.
But given the likelihood that students will challenge the results of this new assessment methodology, possibly even in court, it might well be preferable to let students re-sit this examination.