Barbados two main teachers trade unions are intensifying calls for transparency and integrity from the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) in an effort to avoid a repeat of last year’s confusion that resulted in region-wide student protests.
The local teacher representative bodies are however committing to dialogue as they attempt to stave off a worst case scenario ahead of the May/June sitting of the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) and Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Exams (CAPE).
On Thursday, The Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU) and the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) threw their full support behind calls for further dialogue on this year’s exams most recently made by the Caribbean Union of Teachers (CUT).
In a letter sent to the CXC, CUT General Secretary Don Howell condemned the council’s failure to provide a “clear plan” and further information regarding the routine procedures and policy directives that will govern this year’s CSEC and CAPE. This, Howell argued, ought to account for the “collective vulnerabilities” of the region in the face of the ongoing pandemic that in many cases has triggered a transition to online learning and reduced teaching hours.
“As a region, we cannot trifle with our people’s education. As a significant stakeholder, CUT encourages collective consultation, policy development and implementation as these will redound to our educational systems’ benefit and mitigate the vulnerabilities of our region,” said Howell.
Scores of parents, students and teachers in Barbados and across the region are still up in arms over the administration, assessment and subsequent grading of last year’s exams that resulted in protests and in some cases, even lawsuits.
In an effort to avoid a repeat of the issues, CXC is being asked to provide “comprehensive information to establish some level of fairness in the psychometric formula being used to award students’ grades.
“Indeed, the apparent shortcomings and failures have been ascribed to the teachers, despite the austere measures brought to bear on our societies and economies by COVID-19 and the CXC’s failure to heed CUT’s warnings and recommendations,” declared the letter.
“CUT remains resolute to defend our members’ integrity and ensure, as far as possible, that there is integrity, accountability, transparency and equality in the operation of the region’s examining body,” it added.
When contacted, the BSTU President Maryann Redman conveyed the union’s “full agreement” with the CUT’s demands. So serious is the issue, Ms. Redman has secured an audience with the Minister of Education that is scheduled to occur before the end of the week.
“I was promised a meeting with the Minister [of Education Santia Bradshaw] this week. I had written to the ministry in September and again in December requesting meetings, and we are really hoping that that occurs as was promised,” she told Barbados TODAY.
BUT General Secretary Herbert Gittens has also committed to further dialogue with the Ministry of Education as he pleaded with CXC officials to be more mindful of students’ challenges to avoid a repeat of last year.
“We should all learn from our mistakes and in the future, we should never repeat the things that didn’t go right. So I would hope that there is no repeat and what happens will be for the better and that there is greater satisfaction for everybody,” Herbert told Barbados TODAY.
“The best approach now is to work with all stakeholders including the Ministry of Education, the Caribbean Union of Teachers and all the teachers’ unions in the Caribbean and try as best to work with CXC for a solution,” he added. “The best that can be done is for all of us to work together in this difficult time to ensure that we have the best possible solution.” (KS)