Regional examinations body, the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) will be stepping up its efforts to target candidates over age 17 and out of school, when the new academic year begins next month.
CXC Registrar Glenroy Cumberbatch has reported that the move comes amid concerns over a drop in its “out of school population” writing the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Exam (CAPE) and Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) exam.
“There used to be a fairly large amount of persons who were out of school and who were seeking to better their qualifications and will either do something on their own or go to an evening institute and try to improve their number of subjects. Those numbers seem to be falling.
“We are targeting that group of persons . . . and also to increase the role of the institutions to capture that population, because if you don’t have five subjects then your potential for income is going to be diminished significantly,” Cumberbatch told a recent news conference.
He added that CXC is looking to develop a learning hub to assist young people who are interested in furthering their secondary education.
“And they can find whatever kind of materials they want to on that learning hub, which can be interactive, which can allow them also to rent stuff, to buy stuff, to just take out a subscription on stuff and so on; but to ensure that they have the facility to study once they choose to study, and to help make them more successful in their studying . . . . It may translate to better grades, or it may not, but at least they have that opportunity,” the CXC Registrar said.
There is also concern among regional educators that children are being rushed through the secondary education system within five years, when, according to Cumberbatch, some may need an additional year or two to complete their studies.
“There was a time in Barbados when, for example, Harrison College had a lower first and upper first, so you spent at least six years in school. And we’re talking about some of the brightest children in the country. Now, everybody goes through school in five years when you have universal secondary education. And other countries have said the same thing. Why, with universal secondary education, you’re going to give people less time than you gave years ago, when you had a select few going into secondary school?”
In a bid to increase the options offered to students, CXC will introduce at least three new programmes in the new academic year: Design and Technology, Mandarin and Portuguese.
Cumberbatch explained that the Design and Technology aims to help students to identify problems and generate ideas to solve those problems in their respective countries.
“We’re trying to link a lot of what we offer to persons’ potential to help grow the economies in the country, or add to the economies, while at the same time providing income for themselves and their families,” he explained.
The top CXC official said the decision to introduce Mandarin was influenced by the number of students pursuing higher education in China.
“We have lots of persons who go to China on scholarships and their first year or so they have to spend emerged in the Chinese communities far away from their families, far away from anybody else without much support. If they can spend a year or two years learning the same Mandarin, when they go on scholarship they could finish faster, and they can be much more acclimatized to the environment when they get to China,” he said, adding that it would also assist in Barbados’ efforts to target the Chinese tourism market.
Cumberbatch noted that an estimated 1,000 students sat the Portuguese exam for the first time this year, with the majority coming from Guyana. This course, he said, has been beneficial to that Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country, given its proximity to Brazil and the close trade links between the two countries.
“Learning people’s language, better understanding their culture, and being able to communicate with them without an interpreter, is always a useful way of doing business with people,” he said.