A former registrar of the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) has condemned recent demands by teachers for payment for correcting School Based Assessments (SBAs) for CXC.
Referring to the issue as a “very pugnacious one”, Didacus Jules – who headed the organization from 2006 to 2014 – revealed to Barbados TODAY that the recent demand by teachers was an issue which had come up repeatedly during his eight-year tenure.
In fact, Jules, who also served as CEO, insisted that a certain group of teachers from Barbados had been the ones spearheading the charge.
“When I was Registrar at CXC I met on at least four occasions with representatives of the Caribbean Union of Teachers (CUT) at which a particular group of teachers from Barbados was pressing this agenda item and we discussed it at length.
“There was a conclusion of the Ministers of Education of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) indicating that they would not approve such a move,” Jules explained, in an exclusive interview shortly after delivering remarks during the launch of the ‘Multidimensional Approaches to Poverty Reduction Project’ at UN House, Marine Gardens earlier today.
“Now, understand that in the discussions we had at the time, we made it very clear that CXC was fully supportive of looking at the issues relating to the professional upgrading and the improvement of the status of teachers in general. But I do not think however that this matter of payment for SBAs is the way to go because conceptually, from the very beginning, CXC was the first regional or international examination to include SBAs as an integral element of its assessment of students,” he added. Furthermore Jules, who is now the director general of the OECS, argued that any such move would considerably increase the cost of correcting SBAs at a time when CXC was looking at ways to reduce expediture. He said contrary to popular belief, CXC did not turn over a big profit.
“What people are not looking at in this battle is that an increase of payment to teachers for SBAs will exponentially increase the cost of marking these exams.
“CXC is not a profit-making institution. Every cent that CXC makes is plugged back into teacher development across the Caribbean and plugged back into other initiatives to help teachers and students improve the work that they do,” he pointed out.
Jules said during his tenure he sought to improve the economic viability of the Barbados-based regional examinations body, as well as reduce its operating costs, while increasing the revenue through leveraging and intellectual property.
This, he explained, was done so CXC would be less dependent on national governments for its sustainability.
However, Jules did concede that for some teachers, correcting SBAs could prove to be very challenging.
It was for this reason he said, that CXC along with the different ministries of education, had reached an agreement that those teachers correcting SBAs should have a lighter workload.
“I think this is a dangerous trend. What we recognized was that there were challenges for some teachers who had multiple SBAs to mark and it has always been an agreement between CXC and ministries of education that a teacher who has an SBA class would have a reduced workload in respect of the expectations of the Ministry,” Jules noted.
“For instance if you are a Chemistry teacher and you had SBAs to correct, you would not to be expected to do end of term exams with your students. The progress marks that you give them as you evaluate and help them improve on their SBAs could be entered as the end of term results for that subject . . . so there are ways in which one can accommodate those needs.”
Instead of debating over whether teachers should be paid or not, Jules maintained that the discussion, which ought to be taking place in the Caribbean today, was about what could be done to improve the standard of the profession as a whole.
He said that following the introduction of CXC, a number of countries, including Australia and Singapore, introduced SBAs as an integral part of their entire examination system.
His comments come against the backdrop of warnings by the Barbados Secondary Teachers Union, led by Mary Redman, that it will not give up the fight to have teachers adequately compensated for marking SBAs. The union is currently refusing to allow its members to mark CXC papers. So far, CXC officials have not publicly responded to the demands.