Careers & Education

Teachers said to be aiding student cheating

CXC again warns against practice

BY NADINE WILSON Career & Education reporter

Sunday, April 06, 2014    

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THE Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) is again warning against cheating in its exams, amidst reports to Career & Education that some teachers have resorted to charging their students money in exchange for doing their School Based Assessments (SBA).

Career & Education was told by a student that the practice is taking place in at least one identified private institution, with teachers at times doing the entire project for a fee.

When contacted, assistant registrar responsible for public administration at the council, Cleveland Sam, said CXC has not had any official report of this particular practice, although there have been cases of Jamaican students not receiving grades because of cheating in the past.

Last year for example, CXC revoked the grades of over 70 Jamaica College students who sat the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) in physics, after a probe found that they were instructed by their teacher to plagiarise previous lab work.

"Where cheating is concerned, the regulations are very strong about cheating and you know once you do not have a grade for your SBAs, you do not get a grade for your exams, so it's a very serious issue," Sam said.

"The regulation obviously doesn't speak to teachers charging, because that is obviously not the expectation. The SBA is supposed to be the authentic work of the student and if CXC finds evidence to suggest otherwise, then the student is penalised," he asserted.

Based on the council's regulations, the SBAs are necessary to get a passing grade in the exams and could account for anywhere between 20 to 40 per cent of the examination, depending on the subject area.

Sam pointed out that a recurring issue in examinations is the use of

cellphones by students. This is a violation that has resulted in some students not receiving their grades.

"Even if we have five of those cases, it's five too many, because it means that five students are leaving school without any results whatsoever, because with respect to the cellphone violation, it is not just the subject in which you are taught, it's the entire sitting," he explained.

Last year Dianne Medford, assistant registrar, examinations administration and security at CXC, said the council noted a steady trend in students cheating in the exams across the region. She pointed out that Jamaica, which had the highest number of candidates for the exam, had the highest number of cheaters. In some of the cases, teachers were contributing to the cheating by submitting fraudulent SBA sample documents on their schools' behalf.

"We have found teachers being guilty. We had a major case three years ago when the person was re-marking the samples. It was realised that the work was from a previous syllabus and the marker could not figure out what was happening, so it was sent over [to us]," Medford said during a stakeholder seminar for journalists hosted by CXC at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel last year.

"When the sample was being analysed, the cover of one submitted SBA was slitted with a knife and peeled back. It had a totally different cover, different name, different year, different candidate, different everything.

"It turned out the teacher never did SBAs with the class. She manufactured SBAs and told the candidates, 'Don't worry, you don't have to do SBAs. I will fix it for you', and they agreed. So they were all ungraded," she said.

Meanwhile, president of the Jamaica Teachers Association (JTA), Dr Mark Nicely, has cautioned teachers' against engaging in any practice that would compromise the integrity of the examination, as this would reflect badly on students, teachers, schools and the country generally.

"We do not support in any way, this kind of activity by our teachers. What we support is that students must do their own work and that the teachers have a responsibility to assist

the students to become independent learners. The act of doing SBAs for students or charging students to do SBAs is very, very unfortunate. It is immoral and it does not amount to higher levels of professionalism, which is what the JTA supports," he said.

He pointed out that SBAs will essentially prepare students for conducting research which is very important at the tertiary level.

"It could be that students are handing them in late and they are not getting adequate time to really vet them. If that is a factor, teachers really need to insist that students hand in their work on time," he noted.

"We have to be very, very careful. We might be seeking to do good, but might in the process do harm," he said.

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