by Kareem Smith
Parents and students affected by the ongoing Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) saga have welcomed the Mia Mottley- administration’s promise to foot the bill for students demanding a review of their “erroneous” grades.
Pressure groups at the forefront of the fight are however disappointed that taxpayers will be the ones paying up as the regional examining body attempts to absolve itself of liability.
Lead Committee Spokesperson for the Group of Concerned Parents of Barbados Paula-Anne Moore as well as Student Advocate Khaleel Kothdiwala were reacting to Sunday’s virtual press conference convened by CXC Chairman Sir Hilary Beckles and Registrar Dr Wayne Wesley to disclose the preliminary findings of an Independent Review Team (IRT) appointed amid regional outrage over this year’s results.
On Tuesday, the team will present its findings in full following a review today with regional ministers of education.
On Sunday, Dr Wesley announced during the press conference which saw participation by journalists around the region, that review fees would be slashed in half and the results of requested reviews would be available in a week.
The deadline for making requests has also been extended from October 23 to November 6 with a promise that students’ grades will not be reduced. The review will include a re-marking of the disputed paper.
Hours later, during a political meeting at Market Hill, St George, Prime Minister Mottley instructed Education Minister Santia Bradshaw to inform CXC of the Government’s intention to foot the bill (BDS $30 per script) for all CXC reviews requested by Barbados’ students.
“Santia, I know that you have asked for a waiver and we have not heard back an answer, but Bajans don’t beg, and therefore tomorrow, you will tell them that the Government of Barbados will pay for the review of all the children who need a review from CXC,” Mottley declared to the delight of Barbados Labour Party (BLP) faithful.
In response, Moore said the parent pressure group was “thrilled” at Mottley’s demonstration of leadership and her acknowledgement of CXC’s “sub-optimal” treatment of students.
The outspoken advocate however rejected CXC’s refusal to waive the entire fee and noted that hundreds of students outside of the country would be severely affected.
“So while we welcome Ms Mottley’s leadership, we trust that the other Ministers of Education throughout the region would come with a united policy so that all disadvantaged persons throughout the region that might be financially vulnerable are protected and we still feel like the taxpayers should not have to cover that cost, which is what will happen,” Moore told Barbados TODAY.
“CXC was paid for a ‘paper two’ which was not administered, which is a systemic problem within the education ecosystem. So the individuals, whether there is a direct payment from the ministry should not be made to pay again,” she further contended.
Kothdiwala, a student of the Queen’s College meanwhile conveyed his thanks to the Prime Minister and Minister
of Education on behalf of students and teachers in a press release on Monday.
While the two advocacy groups are eagerly anticipating the release of a full report from the IRT, they acknowledged CXC’s initial promises as a step in the right direction.
They have however slammed the regional body for blaming poor Internet connectivity, the ongoing pandemic, high student expectations, and “implied teacher corruption” instead of acknowledging its own wrongdoing.
“This was a shameless attempt to pass the buck of responsibility and one which does not factor in the fact that this year’s problem is clearly a macro problem and therefore those micro factors would not create the quagmire in which we now find ourselves,” said Kothdiwala.
“Most disturbingly, the council, since September 22, has and continues to place unfounded blame at the feet of teachers, with unsubstantiated, implied allegations of teacher corruption and/or misconduct, as far as the award of marks is concerned.
“This stance is deeply regrettable for an examination body, which relies upon teachers to teach their syllabus content,
and for a council which reports to ministries of education, who employ many of these teachers, and certainly supervise all.
The council must, unequivocally, state its confidence in the teaching profession in the region, if there is to be a harmonious relationship between the two going forward,” the sixth-form student demanded.
When contacted, the President of the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union Mary-Ann Redman opted to reserve comment until the full IRT’s findings are released.
Kothdiwala however outlined a long list of “burning questions” that remain unanswered regarding the re-moderation of SBA’s, CXC’s weighting of the papers in the absence of a Paper 2 and inconsistent allocation of grade profiles among others.
Meanwhile, Moore added that future credibility and public trust in the regional examining body depends heavily on its ability to take responsibility for the current melee even as the 2021 exams approach.
“It is a beginning. Rest assured that we as parent advocates will not stop until we perceive that justice is done for our children who have been tortured through no fault of their own going into five weeks tomorrow.
“This torture must end and we will ensure that it ends and we will work with all stakeholders to ensure that it occurs.”