Letters to the Editor

CSEC maths 2019 paper needs scrutiny

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

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Dear Editor,

The following is an open letter to the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC).

My brother sat the recent Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate mathematics exam (Paper 2). He is an excellent mathematics student, and when I heard his concerns I knew something had gone wrong.

He complained about the length of the questions, the value (score) of each question, and the time given to complete the paper.

Now, he is a student from a prominent high school in Manchester. This is a boy who has been excelling in mathematics since his primary school days, achieving well in the 90s for the Grade Six Achievement Test and improving this throughout his high school years, rounding off his internal school mathematics average to about 100 per cent. Who gets that in grade 11? His teacher was expecting a distinction from him. Now his chances are slim for even a grade II.

He did not finish his exam. He said he left several questions undone because it was impossible to complete them in the time allotted.

The only comfort he had was that all the other students felt the same way. Some came out of the exam in tears. But they all knew it was not their fault.

The structure and design of this year's exam is to be brought under careful scrutiny: The time, type of questions, and marks allotted must be reviewed. I gathered that the questions were more on the critical thinking side. That is fine with me. I always want students to think and reason things out. But if CXC is to introduce a new style and structure to its exam then all the factors must be taken into consideration.

I hold CXC in high regard to the point where, when I heard the complaints, I began to wonder how was it possible that that kind of paper reached the students. Given exam protocol, wouldn't the paper have been vetted by different people, at different levels, for content, structure and practicality? Shouldn't the paper be pretested, under exam conditions, to ensure that prepared candidates can successfully complete the examination?

Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) Mathematics 2019 lacked the standard that I know CXC has. Simply put, the exam was disproportionate in the type and length of the questions and the time given. An additional hour would have made it achievable.

I observed that many CSEC subjects are being restructured, but this should not be to the detriment of the students. Any modification in the syllabi must enhance the students' performance. And quality control must never cease to be operational.

We must be fair to our students and ensure we test them on materials they would have covered in their curriculum. We cannot afford for any drama, especially in a core subject such as mathematics.

My charge to CXC is to quickly conduct its post-mortem and devise a practical solution so that the students' grades can reflect their true ability.

I suggest that the Overseas Examinations Commission and the Ministry of Education continue to make representation on behalf of the Jamaican students to minimise poor results.

Marie Theresa Henry

mylord_savesmarie@hotmail.com


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