Press Statement on CXC Press Conference by Student Advocate

Khaleel Kothdiwala, Student Advocate

On Sunday, October 18, Sir Hilary Beckles, in his capacity as Chairman of the Caribbean Examinations Council, and Dr. Wayne Wesley, Registrar of CXC, held a virtual press conference to release the preliminary findings of the Independent Review Team, empaneled to investigate the examination process, allocated examination results and general performance expectations, inter alia

For the purpose of context, this Review Team was appointed by the CXC Chair amidst region-wide protestations from students, parents and teachers, resulting from the release of CXC results on September 22, and the fact that those results were at significant variance with historical trends, teacher predictions and reasonable student and parent expectation. This resulted in thousands of students either with no grades, or grades which were wholly unacceptable and not reflective of reality, which has put on pause the higher education aspirations of these students.

At the press conference, there was no admission of fault nor any acceptance of responsibility by the Council for the inconvenience, anxiety, agony and heartache caused by the clearly defective results. 

Instead, CXC blamed four factors for this crisis: the COVID-19 pandemic, internet connectivity in the territories of the region, implied teacher corruption and unmerited high student expectations. This was a shameless attempt to pass the buck of responsibility and one which does not factor in the fact that this year’s problem is clearly a macro problem and therefore those micro factors would not create the quagmire in which we now find ourselves. Most disturbingly, the Council, since September 22, has and continues to place unfounded blame at the feet of teachers, with unsubstantiated, implied allegations of teacher corruption and/or misconduct, as far as the award of marks is concerned. This stance is deeply regrettable for an examination body, which relies upon teachers to teach their syllabus content, and for a Council which reports to Ministries of Education, who employ many of these teachers, and certainly supervise all. The Council must, unequivocally, state its confidence in the teaching profession in the region, if there is to be a harmonious relationship between the two, going forward. 

On another point of clarification, CXC intimated that only a ‘small minority’ of students have experienced challenges. This is particularly regrettable as it simply does not reflect the reality that, by CXC’s admission, there were nearly 14,000 instances of students receiving ‘ungraded’ or ‘absent’ results, or of the major public outcry in the four weeks since the release of results. The misrepresentation of the problem as a minor one is unfortunate, and will only serve to continue to undermine the confidence of persons in CXC, and inhibit the ‘healing process’ to which Sir Hilary referred in his contribution to the press conference. 

On the positive side, despite the misrepresentations highlighted above, the IRT did recommend a number of measures in the immediate term, which correspond to many of the demands made by parent and student advocacy groups. Importantly:

  • The review process will now include an actual remark of exam scripts, and not the ineffective administrative review, as previously proposed;
  • The vexatious issue of the cost of reviews will be partially addressed by the Council, by a 50% reduction of that fee;
  • Candidates who request reviews will not receive a ‘downgrade’ of the result, which was another contentious issue. Instead, the grade will remain the same, or adjusted upwards, if the remark of the candidate’s scripts support that;
  • Reviews will be returned expeditiously, with the timeframe of turnover being hopefully one week, with the process for requesting a review, being transitioned online, making that process faster and simpler;
  • The review deadline was also extended.

Students across the region commend this mature approach taken and would hope that the remark of the papers produce more equitable grades than previously and that the turnover time is indeed one week. 

However, burning questions remain unanswered:

  • Will the re-moderation of SBAs be done in accordance with the same rubric as in previous years, and which was used by students and teachers this year? Or will the rubric used be modified as was done in the original moderation, in some instances, and which may have produced the irregular results?
  • How did CXC weight the papers in the absence of Paper 2? While much was made at the press conference about “grading on profiles”, this point remains unclear. 
  • Relatedly, how does CXC respond to concerns that originally allocated profiles did not match with original grades, for example where a candidate received an AAB profile, but received a Grade 3? How does that reconcile with the Registrars assertion that grading was done based on profiles?
  • Who will CXC employ as ‘additional capacity’ to remark the examination scripts? And what measures are in place to ensure that this ‘additional capacity’ meet the standard for quality assurance?
  • It was stated at the press conference that computation of grades will be done solely on performance in the Multiple Choice and SBA component of the examinations. This is significantly at variance with the Council’s previously stated position that predicted grades would be factored in. Clarification is required on this point.

Based upon the summary of the recommendations of the IRT provided at the press conference, it appears that CXC has recognized the plethora of mistakes made previously, even if there is a reluctance to explicitly take responsibility. Students and parents will look forward to the release of the final report on Tuesday for the full detail of the findings, and CXC must also publish a document detailing precisely how those recommendations will be implemented and addressing the burning questions which remain. 

Four weeks in, it is past time, for us to move past the present crisis, to find an equitable resolution for all. While the recommendations of the IRT are in no way perfect, if implemented correctly, they will go a significant way in alleviating the problem. 

The ball is now in the court of CXC to implement these recommendations, and provide clarity on matters, which up to the present, they have eschewed direct comment. It is regrettable that CXC continues to refuse to meet with parent or student advocacy groups, but it can be hoped that after their recognition today of their communication failures, that a more amenable public response posture will be adopted. 

After all, CXC is all of us in this complex ecosystem of education in the Caribbean, as Sir Hilary put it, and must therefore chasten itself to be able to held accountable. Only then can the healing process start!


113 comments

  • It is now December, nearly January, and these jokers still cannot resolve the July CXC exam results. I have said repeatedly, our major problem is incompetence, not qualifications of corruption.
    What do the young people waiting on these results to pursue further education do in the meantime? In all other jurisdictions with similar end of year exams, the results for 2020 have not only been resolved, but plans are in place for 2021. for example, in Wales, there will be assessments.
    Where are the ministers of education? W£here are the teachers’ unions? Where are the prime ministers? Where are the parents? Where are the media? Where is BU?

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  • Britain has just cancelled GCSE and A level exams for this year. How are we doing with the 2020 CXCs?

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  • Northern Ireland has cancelled 2021 GCSE and A level exams.

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  • Gross incompetence. The world has resolved its school examination problems.

    A group of parents of students who sat the 2020 Caribbean Examinations Council examinations have demanded a regional commission of inquiry into the CXC’s exam structures and methodology.
    In a press release issued Wednesday, the Group of Concerned Parents of Barbados Caribbean Coalition for 2020 CXC Redress, through its spokesperson and coordinator, Paula-Anne Moore, said students here and around the region are tired of the “haphazard” way in which the regional examination body has handled the release of the final results via its student portal.
    The statement from Moore read in part: “We have provided CXC more than ample time, in good faith, to complete their grade review process. More than three months after preliminary grades were released on 22 September, emotional and mental harm to these thousands of adversely affected students are being perpetuated by CXC, along with real material harm re loss of national and university entrance scholarships and less competitive entrance opportunities to universities, due to clearly erroneous grades, even now.”
    Moore contended that the coalition will remain undeterred in its demands for greater information into the grading methodology used during the examinations. It has also called on CXC to provide raw scores and student scripts as evidence of fair grading, and for a regional commission to investigate the exam body.
    She said: A solution which should result from this Commission can include external review and audit of CXC and a permanent external regulator of CXC, to ensure CXC maintains modern best practices principles as a public examining body, regains national regional public trust and national, regional and international credibility.
    “CARICOM and CXC need to confirm revised plans for 2021 assessment. With the current ravages of the COVID pandemic regionally, including the new outbreak in Barbados, the emotional and mental distress arising therefrom for students, parents, teachers, it is not reasonable to proceed with 2021 exams ‘business as usual’ and the students’ academic and other progressions should not be delayed as a result either.”
    Failing to come to the table, Moore vowed that any and all legal means will be pursued. (S…(Quote)

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  • Well, this is indeed a disgrace! My son and I have tuned out. We have not checked back for his results. We have not even collected his certificates from the year before. They don’t mean that much to us.

    We’ll see when the dust settles. Some battles are best fought by those to whom it means more.

    But these people effed up and just don’t want to admit it. It really isn’t that hard to do. Everybody effs up sometimes!

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  • https://barbadostoday.bb/2021/01/24/january-2021-cxc-examinations-reminder/

    Looks like decisions have been made, but not communicated.

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  • Is it over?
    Only Hal and I remain.

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  • Hi KK,
    They have been lying to you all along. The world does not work as they told you it does … Find a good cause, fight a good fight and you will prevail; good triumphs over evil; work hard and you will succeed.

    I was hoping that you would discover these lies for yourself, but it looks as if I have to intervene. I am going to give you just one lesson; learn it and you will be set for life.

    The golden rule: the guy who has the gold makes the rules.

    CXC has the gold. The big guys protect themselves and their interests. If CXC did as folks were suggesting, they would have reduced the pieces of paper they distribute to nothingness.

    So they did a song and dance; gave folks a six for a nine; big-you-up and then ignored you.

    I wanted to say give you a kick in the ass and sent you on your merry way, but I noticed that your ass is still hurting.

    Here’s the real tough advice. Get over it. Move on.

    Now one person will guess at who I am and call me heartless and uncaring. I care. It’s tough love

    You may not thank me today, but years from now you’ll say.. that heartless bastard was right

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  • They have been losing warm air up your pooch and listening to your groans of delight.
    https://barbadostoday.bb/2021/04/10/cxc-gets-stinging-rebuke-from-barbadian-educator/

    Like

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