With just over two weeks to go before the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) rolls out its annual tests, regional students have made clear their strong dissatisfaction with the examining body and arrangements for the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) and Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE).
In an online survey seeking their views, 82 per cent of students – mainly from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados, with “sizeable” representation from Guyana and the Eastern Caribbean – declared they were not ready for the tests, and demanded an “independent commission of inquiry” to investigate the exam debacle of 2020/2021 and the appointment of an “independent regulatory body to oversee the operations of CXC”.
The online survey, released Wednesday evening, was conducted by the lobby group Caribbean Coalition for Exam Redress, via Microsoft Forms Platforms, between May 31 and June 2 this year, on the heels of CXC’s announcement that exams would be delayed by two weeks.
When CXC Registrar Dr Wayne Wesley had announced that the CSEC and CAPE tests would start on June 28, he said the decision was taken following regional consultations and he confirmed that all papers would remain unchanged and administered in their original formats with Paper 1, Paper 2, and the School-based Assessment; along with a Paper 3/2 for private candidates.
But according to the survey, “78 per cent of the students are dissatisfied with the arrangements for the 2021 exams, 72 per cent said a mere delay of traditional exams is not enough and called for creative solutions, and 75 per cent are dissatisfied with the insufficient concessions offered by CXC this year”.
At the start of May, CXC had released broad topics for CSEC and CAPE in an effort to facilitate the preparation of students for the examinations, but 57 per cent of the students noted that the broad topics were not sufficiently helpful.
Among the concerns of the students was that “nothing really has been taken off the exam”. Others suggested they still did not know what to prepare for.
The respondents largely blamed the current state of affairs on CXC’s failure to properly engage students, with 70 per cent saying they were dissatisfied with the Council’s “deficient communication”.
Commenting on the findings, the Coalition, which said it was not surprised by the results of the survey, argued that the regional examining body did not seriously implement the recommendations of the Independent Review Team that was convened in October last year.
It said: “Had the CXC undertaken to rectify issues surrounding stakeholder engagement, contingency planning and communication, perhaps we would not presently find ourselves in the untenable situation we are, where parents, students and teachers have no confidence in CXC.”
The lobby group also raised concern about what it said was “the disgraceful dereliction of duty on the part of many regional Ministries of Education, particularly their technocrats, evidenced by their lack of responsiveness to the legitimate concerns of students, parents and teachers and their acquiescence to plans which endanger our students”.
“The crisis of 2020 has not yet been satisfactorily resolved, and we hurtle toward another crisis this year. Nonetheless, the Coalition hopes, and indeed stands ready to assist in the strategic planning for 2022, recognizing that COVID-19 and its effects, will remain for a while, in order to avoid the now two-year running crisis engulfing the CXC,” It added.
The Coalition declared its full support for students’ call for an independent commission of inquiry to investigate the events of 2020-21 and the operations of CXC generally (87 per cent support), and a permanent independent regulatory body to oversee the operations of CXC (87 per cent support) and said it would form a permanent advocacy vehicle to continue to promote the best interests of students and parents.