CXC under fire

CXC under fire

Education ministries across region seek probe into 'widescale anomalies'

Senior staff reporter

Saturday, September 26, 2020

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SEVERAL education ministries across the region have written to the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) requesting an investigation into what has been described as “widescale anomalies” with the recently released Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) and Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) results, although Registrar and Chief Executive Officer Dr Wayne Wesley has disagreed with the assessment.

The disclosure that ministries across the region have requested investigations into anomalies was made at a virtual CXC press conference from Barbados yesterday, hours after Jamaica's Ministry of Education announced that portfolio Minister Fayval Williams, had written to CXC Chairman Sir Hilary Beckles requesting a thorough investigation.

Dr Wesley told the Jamaica Observer that while he would not respond to the decision taken by Jamaica, the council is prepared to and has addressed concerns raised by numerous ministers and ministries in the region.

“We would have received requests from several ministers and countries across the region and we are addressing them as they come. So we are responding to all requests that we have received,” he said.

Jamaica's education ministry, in a statement yesterday, said that many students received what they labelled as “inaccurate” results. Several results also came back “ungraded” or “absent”.

The ministry, said the minister, has also sought to ascertain from the council the circumstances that led to results being sent directly to students before schools and the ministry.

This, the minister said, prevented the ministry from identifying, in advance, anomalies or errors in results.

In the letter sent to the CXC chairman, Williams said: “It is in the interest of the Caribbean examination ecosystem that confidence remains in the system. As such, a transparent investigation must commence immediately.”

But Dr Wesley doubled down on the council's position, noting that it does not agree that there are anomalies with the results.

He said, however, that in the instances where students received results which said “ungraded” or “absent” the council is “working with the ministries of education in that regard and the local registrars to have those corrected because what it indicates is that the SBAs [School-Based Assessment] are required or some component of that SBA was not submitted”.

In some instances, students were reported to have received “straight A” profiles but were given a failing grade or received less than satisfactory profiles but were given a grade I result.

He said that individual students should request a query on the matter.

Asked if the council had verified whether or not there was a technological glitch in the system, Dr Wesley said internal checks were made and no issue was found.

“That is why I can respond to you about the [profile] with all A's and getting a G grade. There's no such grade. I can respond to you about the other issues that are there and I'm saying we have to be very responsible that whatever we are responding to is something that we can verify.

“All our data that we have reviewed, all of the things that we have looked at and ensured that our processes and systems are in place has not revealed what is being said. I'm asking to provide us with the information so that we can address them. Where ministries and local registrars have done so we have addressed them,” he said.

At the same time, the registrar noted that he was satisfied with the service provided by the council in light of the results amid the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic.

“...Of course there is also room for improvement and we will be doing that, but certainly with our approach this year, and what we have done to respond in the face of this pandemic, was always with the interest of the students in mind. We are satisfied and I'm quite sure you would also recognise the improved performance of students this year,” said Dr Wesley.

Dr Wesley, speaking Thursday morning with the Observer's sister radio station The Edge, told Top of the Morning host Richie B that where there are concerns there is a mechanism for students to have the requisite queries done, to determine whether or not there is any inconsistency with what they have received.

In explaining how one student who received an A, A, C profile and got grade 1 for a particular subject, while another student who sat the same subject got an A, B profile but received a grade 2, Dr Wesley said, “The profile grades represent a band so it depends on where in the band that student would fall that would determine a 1 or a 2, and those close profiles that would determine the issue falling along the boundaries and that is why you perhaps would get a differential like that.”

The CXC registrar said he “would not necessarily” classify that kind of disparity in results as an inconsistency.

“You know how bands work, you might fall at the higher level of the band or the lower level that will determine your composite grade to be different,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Opposition People's National Party's Dr Angela Brown Burke, shadow minister of education and training, said dialogue between the leadership of the CXC and stakeholders, including students, parents and school administrators, is a necessary process in order to address mounting disquiet about the exam grades.

“This process of dialogue would be helpful in identifying any areas that could benefit from reconsideration, including any inconsistency in grading, comparison of student profiles and their performance. An examination of the curriculum and what was expected might also be a useful tool in this analysis,” Dr Brown Burke said.

— Additional reporting by Alicia Dunkley-Willis

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