Principal calls for CXC exam in e-mode next year; 2020 results expected this week

Principal calls for CXC exam in e-mode next year; 2020 results expected this week

Senior staff reporter

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

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GIVEN the challenges faced by students who were forced to sit the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examination in July instead of the customary May/June due to the coronavirus pandemic, one educator is calling for thought to be given to students sitting their exams in e-mode for at least next year.

“I sincerely hope that we would have learned some lessons and we will manage the process going forward if the pandemic continues to negatively impact how we treat the education system. Manage the process in terms of preparing our students adequately and in a timely manner [with] the dialogue beginning very early across the region about the options that are open to us and the options that we will pursue, based on whatever scenarios may develop,” principal of Ardenne High School in St Andrew, Nadine Molloy told the Jamaica Observer yesterday ahead of the release of the results.

Molloy said her call was based on the observation that the island will still be experiencing the aftershocks of the pandemic come next year.

“What I see happening in countries that started experiencing the pandemic before we did, I believe we are still going to be having issues a year from now. One of the things we really ought to be looking at, whether its the school, the Ministry of Education, the Government and our service providers, we need to look to the students being able to sit their exams in e-mode,” she suggested.

“So if they have to stay at home and log on with their devices that's not so far-fetched; if they have to do that then we should be able to. We should be thinking down the road at this point so that when we get to the examination period next year we should be very clear what our options are, depending on the scenario that presents itself and I am putting e-mode up front because that would be the best way if people have to stay at home,” she said further.

Molloy said this format was not one which would be shunned by the governing body for the exams.

“CXC offers the exam in three modes; there is the direct online mode where, for the duration of the exam, you remain online. There is what is called a buffering mode where it takes into consideration that your Internet connectivity is unstable and so when it becomes stable the exam will upload and then there is the download, upload interface where you can download the exam, do the exam and it is saved to a particular device and uploaded after, so you don't have to be online all time time. So the issue of access would have to do with accessing devices because you can do your exam in one space and upload it in another under controlled conditions of course,” she pointed out.

In the meantime, the Ardenne principal expressed confidence in the performance of the students despite not being privy to the results yesterday.

“Students are very resilient and, I do believe there would be some who would have been adversely affected and it brings to mind the 2010 [Tivoli Gardens] incursion where the similar hardship clause was used where students were not able to complete the entire exam. Their School-Based Assessment (SBA) was used along with one exam, and in this instance they chose the multiple-choice paper because the multiple choice paper would give a shorter contact time in those centres.

“So I think our students will come out performing in a similar manner with the usual fluctuations we would get up or down in various subject areas,” Molloy told the Observer.

She, however, noted that some students would still be affected negatively.

“Some students I think unfortunately will have anxiety issues because of the circumstances around which they were forced to sit an exam. But, at the same time, I am happy that this cohort of students were able to sit their exams. The way they sat the exams was governed by a policy, it was not something that was pulled out of a hat; it was a standardised process that was followed and I am satisfied with that. I am satisfied that they will be able to move on with their lives,” Molloy said.

Meanwhile, Principal of Wolmer's Boys School in Kingston, Dwight Pennycooke was yesterday guardedly optimistic in his response to queries by the Observer some hours ahead of the official release of the exam.

“I don't really know the matrix that would have been used to make a determination. Yes, we know it is the SBA component and Paper 1 in the majority of cases. What I will say for Wolmer's Boys School is that the young men usually rise to the occasion, they are big event performers, so they usually turn up when it's a big event so we anticipate that they will do well.

“Of course we really pulled out all the stops for them to have their face-to-face revision classes to plug whatever gaps we would have anticipated and discovered and we went all out to ensure that all of not most of them submitted their SBAs, and we would have provided them with additional feedback so they could give the best draft possible,” he told the Observer.

“At this stage, we are not going to be pompous but we are going to state that our young men would have turned up and that the results will actually be good; we are optimistic in that regard,” he said.

Principal of Meadowbrook High School in St Andrew Kevin Facey yesterday ascribed a novel description to the experience this year.

“With regard to how the grades stand up this year, as against other years, I think this year is an asterisk year for no fault of the students. I am not sure how valid it is to compare performance with other years since technically there has never been a year like this.

“It is my opinion that they will have to treat this as a stand-alone year; it's an entirely different circumstance, however, if this becomes what obtains for the next academic year,” he told Observer. In the meantime, he expressed faith in the approach taken by CXC.

“CXC would have employed testing and measurement specialists who would have advised them as to the reliability of the SBA scores. I chose to think they were reasonably comfortable with just that portion of the exams; they would be looking at data which would lead them to believe that that kind of inference would be valid,” he pointed out.

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