It is said that one of the most tragic flaws in hamartia, or “error of judgment” is hubris. We have been taught that hubris is that pride or overweening self-confidence which leads an otherwise revered or level-headed leader to disregard divine warnings and commit sometimes fatal errors.
We must admit that having observed the actions of the leadership of the Barbados-based regional body – the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC), we fear that the organisation is so littered with PhDs and other esteemed designations, that they have somehow forgotten whom they serve.
From Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, and up the island chain, there has been a chorus of complaints and laments about highly unusual results which were recently delivered by CXC to the students and their institutions earlier this week.
Yes, we know that 2020 has been strange to say the least.
We do not pretend to know what has gone wrong with the 2020 results for the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) and Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examinations but something certainly is not right.
Barbados’ Education Minister Santia Bradshaw and her counterparts across the various territories have demanded some form of investigation to uncover the source of the region-wide headaches for students, many of whom require and were expecting good grades to continue on with their plans for higher education.
“The disquiet among students who recently received the Caribbean Examinations Council’s CAPE and CSEC examinations is definitely cause for concern. I am of the view that an urgent investigation must be carried out by CXC into this matter to preserve the integrity of the examinations,” Bradshaw urged the regional examining body which is funded by the Governments of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
From its brand-new headquarters at Pine Plantation, which we believe the goodly, heavily burdened taxpayers of Barbados are still financing, the initial response of its registrar and chief executive officer Dr Wayne Wesley, not only sounded tone-deaf but insensitive.
Declaring there would be “no investigation”, the response was the equivalent of one giant slap in the faces of parents and students who called for an investigation into the “unusual” results. This request to the average man in the street seemed just and certainly not outlandish.
“We don’t have an investigation to launch; we are very confident with what has been done and I think what is needed is clarity,” Dr. Wesley is reported by local media to have said.
Assuming that reporting from the CXC boss is accurate, we say to you Dr Wesley your response is a non-starter and its effect was only to antagonize the constituents whom you serve, who by the way, can still exercise other options for external examinations other than the CXC.
We have been more than proud of the work of this regional institution which was started in 1972 when an agreement establishing the Council was signed in Barbados by the governments of 15 English-speaking Caribbean territories.
It is a shining example of functional cooperation of CARICOM. However, no matter the success of any person or institution, none is infallible and mistakes can occur.
To suggest there was not even the need for an investigation is to say to the thousands of students, teachers and their representative bodies across the region and to the Governments, in the form of their Ministries of Education, that CXC is incapable of making mistakes and really there is nothing anybody can do about it. We certainly hope that was not the message that the institution intended to convey.
Like the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and other institutions who have found a home in Barbados, the CXC benefits from a level of protection from various forms of legal action. However, we ask Dr. Wesley to reconsider his approach to his disgruntled stakeholders and conduct a real investigation into the 2020 exam results debacle and then share the contents of the probe with the region.
That would be an exemplary form of leadership of which this region would be particularly proud.
As with the tragic hero Oedipus in Sophocles’ Oedipus the King, the CXC is not an evil man and its misfortune in 2020 is greater than it deserves. But remember, happiness can change to misery because of mistaken choices, clouded by hubris.