Students ready for CSEC, CAPE examinations


Students ready for CSEC, CAPE examinations

Monday, July 13, 2020

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VIRTUAL learning, the wearing of masks, keeping physically distant from their peers and others, and constantly washing and sanitising hands are elements of a new reality that students have had to adapt to as they prepared to sit their Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) papers.

This is due to the advent of the highly contagious novel coronavirus that has wreaked havoc on the world and resulted in school plants being closed for approximately four months, potentially completely derailing teaching and learning.

However, the Government implemented measures so that as of today, approximately 74,904 students will be ready to sit their Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) and the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) examinations. A number of students will also be sitting international examinations.

One student who has taken this turn of events in stride is Tameka Smith of Tivoli Gardens High School in Kingston, who told JIS News that even though she lost some study time when the school was closed, she continued to work on finishing up her School-Based Assessment (SBA), which contributes to students' final grades.

She noted that since June, she and her colleagues who practised as a team, began working on past papers and completing SBAs for submission.

Though Tameka faced some difficulties with studying in the daytime due to loud music blaring in her Denham Town community, “I chose to study at night when I know that everybody is asleep”.

She said she is grateful for the assistance she got from her school when the physical campuses were reopened on June 8 to accommodate students sitting CXC examinations.

“When school reopened, our teachers sat with us, [went] through the SBAs with us, let us understand what needs to be done, let us revise, go through past papers with us. Our school [greatly] assisted us,” she said.

Keeping a positive attitude, Tameka, who will be sitting eight CSEC subjects and three London-based City and Guilds examinations, said she continues to pray “and hope that things will get better”.

“We [took the time] to rebuild that structure to study and to focus more in school and to aim for the best in our exams,” she said.

Her schoolmate, Tavanie Jeffery, who is a lower sixth form student, told JIS News that the preparation leading up to exams “was rough” for him.

“When Prime Minister [Andrew Holness] had announced that schools were going to be closed on March 13, we were on the verge of completing our SBAs and…it was very difficult [as] I do not have any electronic device at home that I could try and use to complete my SBA. I depended on the school for that,” he shared.

Tavanie, however, did not sit on his hands during the period of the school's closure, which he admitted is the longest he has ever been out of school, but reached out to his principal, Marvin Johnson, for assistance, who then provided him with CAPE textbooks which helped to guide him in his studies.

The ambitious student, who will be sitting three CAPE subjects, already has six CSEC subjects to his credit.

Tavanie realised that he would require more assistance so he was elated at the news of the reopening of schools, even though his parents “didn't want me to go back to school because of how contagious the disease is and how rapidly it spreads”.

“I had to go to school because my internal assessment wasn't finished and I had to go to school to finish up those,” he noted.

In the meantime, Principal Johnson told JIS News that he and his staff ensured that all the necessary arrangements were put in place to facilitate continued learning for the 240 Tivoli Gardens High students who will be sitting examinations this year.

“We continued to engage students virtually through WhatsApp, Zoom and other online platforms. Those without Internet access were provided with learning packages that they picked up from school,” he said.

The Ministry of Education, Youth and Information provided the necessary resources needed to support remote learning. This included providing capacity-building support for principals and teachers to support remote learning during the closure of schools and to supplement instructional hours with a blended model where schools were operating on partial or otherwise adapted schedules.

Johnson also noted that prior to the official reopening of school, students who had challenges completing their SBA were allowed to use the computer labs at school in small groups of five, while observing all COVID-19 protocols.

“Throughout the reopening of school in June, the students were scheduled for face-to-face engagements with their teachers, observing all the social distancing guidelines. Students were also provided with lunch at no cost to them. This was made possible through donors and supplementation by the school,” he said.

Also, in keeping with the COVID-19 protocols, Johnson said that all visitors to the campus could not enter without a mask and their temperatures were checked and their hands sanitised upon entry.

He also noted that wash stations have been set up at strategic points on the compound and were equipped with sanitisers, soap and hand towels. He said, too, that the school hall and the library, which are the designated exam-sitting areas, will be arranged to accommodate students based on distancing rules.

Dave Myrie, principal of Kingston College where 617 students will be sitting CSEC and CAPE exams from grades 10 to 13, noted that online classes were provided during the COVID-19 lockdown, followed by four weeks of intense revision at school from June 8 to July 3.

He noted that while initially some students were reluctant to log onto the online learning platforms, the intervention of senior managers, including himself who started monitoring the online classes, resulted in “the numbers drastically increasing after that”.

Myrie said students have expressed that they are “very confident and ready for the exams”, and that students adapted very well and embraced online learning, except for the complaint that “it ate up their data”.

In preparing for the early reopening of school plants to facilitate those students sitting exams, the principal noted that all protocols were put in place, including the restructuring of classrooms to hold 15 students only.

In addition, contactless hand sanitisation and soap dispenser stations were installed as well as paper towel dispensers. Also, individuals, including volunteer nurses from the Kingston College Parent Teacher Association were installed at all gates to sanitise all who entered.

“Thermometers were provided for temperature checks to be done at all entrances to the school; additional washbasins were installed; additional [foot manoeuvred] garbage bins were put in place; there was emphasis on the wearing of masks — no mask, no entry; and posters were placed all around the school to remind students of what is expected of them,” Myrie said.

Meanwhile, registrar and CEO of CXC Dr Wayne Wesley, in a video message to provide an update on the exams, assured that the management and staff of CXC “are working closely with the ministries of education and local registrars in each country to ensure that you remain safe during these unprecedented times”.

“All examination centres and invigilators will follow national heath protocols as it relates to social distancing, the wearing of masks and the sanitisation of hands and surfaces,” he said.

Approximately 58,720 students have registered to sit CSEC subjects and 16,184 for CAPE starting today until August 7. Orals for foreign languages have already commenced.

Mr Myrie has one bit of advice for students: “Relax. As long as you have prepared well, you will be okay. And if you did not prepare as well as you could have, just do your best.”

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