One of the island’s major teachers’ unions is gravely concerned that parents are not properly representing the interests of their children regarding the interests of their children regarding the need to delay the Caribbean Examinations Council’s (CXC) test for 2022.
And leading parent-student advocate Paula Anne Moore, while sharing the union’s concerns, is disappointed, demoralised and disheartened that the adults, regional governments and the educational arm of CARICOM (Caribbean Community) have abandoned their children.
Moore, who continues to be a fierce advocate for parents and students in the region in the fight for “fairness” in the CXC exams, said Monday it has become “very” difficult to mobilise people to maintain pressure on the council.
She said it appears to be a cultural hangover where people seem to be afraid to be visible.
“I would go on a limb and say that I have been doing my part as much as I can. I collaborated with Miss Redman (President of the Barbados Secondary Teachers Union Mary-Ann Redman) and with student advocate Khaleel Kothdiwala, locally and regionally, but it has been very difficult to get the existing parent bodies to advocate, when it comes to these matters,” she told Barbados TODAY.
As far as president of the BSTU is concerned, parents need to act now regarding the timing and structure of the CXC exams which she contended the council has failed to adequately address.
“I am concerned that parents have not taken up the issue of the timing and structure of CXC exams for 2022 with the relevant institution and the Ministry of Education. I am saying this because the students this year, were the most disadvantaged…throughout the region, really …in relation to adequate preparation for CXC,” Redman told Barbados TODAY on Monday.
“The present fifth-formers would have last been exposed to a full year of face-to-face instruction in second form. They are the ones that for the last two years, would have been tutored mainly online. And the present lower sixth, many of them only started school after week seven in some instances, and week eight of last term because, of course, CXC results were late,” the union leader stated.
She argued that those students generally would have missed more than half of the first term last academic year.
“They have only been exposed to face-to-face instruction this term after mid-February. These are the students that are supposed to be sitting CXC examinations this year. CXC has made no provision for these impediments to their preparation process.
Redman added: “They have not changed the timing of the exam; they have not changed the structure of the exam; they have not sought to release broad topics on the content areas of the various subjects that will be examined; they have not sought to introduce choice in the question paper. So that, the question paper remains compulsory and in none of these areas that we in the BSTU have asked at the level of two meetings with CXC, and that also I spoke to CXC Council and recommended that those accommodations be made, nothing has been done at all to assist our students in the region.”
Although admitting that some neighbouring Caribbean countries were able to resume face-to-face classes before Barbados, the BSTU president pointed out that in many instances, this was not consistent.
She explained that in many cases, these same countries which re-introduced physical teaching a little earlier, were often forced to close schools during that same period because of increased cases of COVID-19 and absences either of student or teacher, or both, because of the virus.
Redman said that regionally, the students have suffered.
“This cohort of examination students has been the most negatively affected because of COVID, and it is time that parents in the region, take up the interests of their children and seek to represent those interests at the levels where justice can be done as it relates to the readiness of students for CXC exams…and the insistence that CXC makes the type of accommodation that will not disadvantage the students any further than they have been by this pandemic,” the union chief declared.
She also suggested that Ministers of Education in the region could persuade CXC to take action on this matter, when they gather for their next meeting of the Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD).
Regarding the exams, the BSTU president explained that in 2020, the test structure was changed and there was only the paper one multiple choice items and the exam was pushed back to start in July. The test was in July/August, she noted.
She added that last year, CXC reverted to the normal exam structure and the dates were again rescheduled.
“This year, with children so disadvantaged…and last year of course, they gave the broad topics beforehand, so that children had an idea of what topics would be coming on the exam paper, no accommodations of any type this year; none whatsoever. Many of the students are frustrated, especially in the lower sixth, where they are actively trying to finish SBAs, and the teachers are literally stretched out, attempting to get as far along as they could in the syllabi. The same is true of the CSEC class. It is really very, very unfair to the children and the teachers in the system,” Redman stated.
Supporting the need for urgent attention to exam structure, the parent-student advocate pointed out that examination bodies around the world, except in the Caribbean, have modified their exam processes to facilitate the disruption to educational instruction and learning caused by the pandemic.
“This is the third academic year that the pandemic has [disrupted] education and learning. I am deeply disappointed, very, very disappointed…from CARICOM, the COHSOD arm of CARICOM, our governments in the region, and yes, our parent bodies. I think all of us are accountable for the fact that we have not advocated more forcefully to hold CXC accountable, and have CXC modify their examination to be more fair,” Moore declared.
“What has happened is that our regional students are disadvantaged. They are not as competitive internationally because internationally, other exam bodies have modified their assessments to be clear. These children have gone through so much…and I am just so very disappointed and disheartened that we adults that should look out for our children, another academic year, we are not doing as much as we could,” she stressed.
“Nationally and regionally, I have interacted with a lot of these students and the strain and despair that these children…I mean, we were on a regional Zoom meeting, and some of us adults had to scramble and call up these children because they said they actually wanted to end it all. It was a scary moment. I don’t think we appreciate as a culture, how harsh we are towards our children. I am just so demoralised and disappointed,” the parent advocate lamented.