CXC says there are deficiencies in overall system

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CXC says there are deficiencies in overall system

But examining body again defends integrity of exams

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
Senior staff reporter
saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, October 19, 2020

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THE Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) has again defended the integrity of this year's modified approach to the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) and Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) and attributed the discrepancies and issues raised by some candidates this year to deficiencies in the overall system and not the competence of the regional examinations body itself.

Speaking at a press conference yesterday, chairman of the council and vice chancellor of The University of the West Indies, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles said all countries and stakeholders across the region, which subscribe to the exams, must claim collective responsibility, as outcomes do not rest solely with CXC.

Sir Hilary was presenting some of the findings of the draft report of the independent review team, which was set up to review the administration of CSEC and CAPE, following extensive outcry across the region about results from the exams which were administered in July/August.

The independent review team made 23 recommendations in the draft report, which CXC management will discuss today with education ministers of the region. The final report is to be made available to the wider public on Tuesday.

Sir Hilary said CXC did well with the modified administration of the exams this year with “excellent” academic outcomes generally, within the context of the novel coronavirus pandemic. However, serious concerns raised by a small minority, he said, must be addressed.

The chairman said the approach had been educationally and technically sound, and the system of marking and adjudication of performance and assessment is technically sound, and that the examinations body had conducted its mandate in a professional manner.

The review team found that given the fragmented nature of the systems in which schools and ministries are dependent upon CXC and vice versa, within the context of the structure, problems identified could have been placed in a more effective communications response, and that the communications between the various elements of the system could have been more effective.

“Given the structural change in assessments there remains, despite the formal efforts of CXC, a measure of misunderstanding about the nature of the changes, particularly within the school setting [and] that these misunderstandings contributed ultimately to a high measure of anxiety in respect of students, teachers, parents and other stakeholders,” Sir Hilary said.

He said the review assessed that the public outcry originated largely in the notion of expected performance outcome, where predictions were sometimes at variance with performance.

The team of experts said there were sometimes technical challenges in the communication between CXC and some schools, and that in some instances CXC could have responded to concerns with greater alacrity, notwithstanding the logistical and other technical challenges which exist. It stressed that while the fundamentals of CXC are sound, the relations within the system must be made more efficient.

The CXC chairman pointed out that some 1,124 schools and colleges and institutions participated in the CSEC exams; 360 institutions at the CAPE level, involving 1,500 examiners, 150,000 examination papers, and nearly 40,000 candidates and students, and 122,000 students engaged in the CSEC.

Sir Hilary stressed that this is an “enormous” structure and undertaking, in which the administration and management of the exams were just a part of the picture, and that all the education systems across the region must work in order for there to be maximum outcomes.

He said there were issues at various levels of these systems that affect the outcomes. “The public in general have become accustomed to describing this entire system as the CXC...though the CXC is a part, albeit the most visible part. It is an ecosystem of education and examinations of which CXC is at the apex and is interdependent upon the larger structure, over which it has no or little control or influence. Imagine if you will a 10-storey building in which CXC occupies the top floor, if the plumbing is broken on any floor within the structure, it makes no sense to point fingers in terms of responsibility, “ he argued.

“All the parts in the system must deliver at their maximum capability; there could be challenges at any part in the system. We are concerned that there is a break in the system and that we can identify it and we can fix it and put it all together as efficiently as we can so that when we have a challenge, such as a large number of students or a bloc of students, we have to examine what has gone wrong, because it is not simply a matter that the students did not do as well as expected, in many instances it was because there were communication challenges, with statistics, with grades that now need to be fixed,” he explained . The CXC chairman said there were systemic issues within jurisdictions, including Internet connectivity.

However, he said the challenges must be identified and tackled with collective responsibility. He said a public engagement strategy will be rolled out following the release of the final report, as part of the healing process.

Meanwhile, CXC Registrar Dr Wayne Wesley said the 2,353 requests for reviews for CAPE and 2,550 for CSEC are now being processed. There were 659 requests for review of ungraded tests across the region.


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