think it is high time regional governments intervene in the functioning of the CXC. This email is not designed to point fingers at any particular person in management, but I think it is clear that a thorough shake up of this agency is necessary…
The word today that there has been an exam leak comes on the heels of a headline speaking to the CXC’s concern about the use of AI in the SBA process and the obvious issues this would cause for fairness and distribution of marks for this form of assessment.
But back to today’s leaked exam…I dare say another leaked exam, because I am quite sure that this has happened in the recent past. The rest of the region has accepted that a leak occurred…But the CXC’s rhetoric suggests that it needs verifying in the face of photos posted on social media and imbedded in the story by St. Vincent media and others. I get that you need to be sure, but good God CXC speed up, act businesslike. Yes you will need to prosecute under the law and all that good stuff, but a blind man can see that you need to make changes and substantial ones..
Tennyson Joseph, UWI lecturer and political scientist shared a personal experience in his recent weekly column. While it is a personal experience, it scrutinises and exposes decision making at the highest level by education planners in the region. We must do better if we are to compete on the world stage, especially being able to cover-off rudimentary decisions.
See article reproduced from Nationnews.com.
Another CXC mis-step
I WRITE IN MY capacity as a concerned and frustrated parent, in response to an incident which occurred during the conduct of the CSEC English B (English Literature) multiple choice exam on Friday May 27, 2022.
Originally intended to be a two-hour exam (from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m), my daughter exited the exam room at 5:30 p.m., with other students having streamed out a few minutes before, this is on a day when they had already had a morning paper from 9 a.m. to 11:15 a.m. Essentially, therefore, the affected students were kept under examinations conditions for seven hours.
What was the issue? It appears that a decision was taken to conduct all CXC multiple-choice examinations online without ensuring that the necessary IT infrastructure to support such examinations was in place. Given that English B is compulsory for all students at my daughter’s school, the demand overload proved overwhelming, and many students had to sit for hours waiting, without success, for the exam App to open. Some were successful at various periods after the start, while others’ systems crashed mid-exam.
My daughter was one of the unfortunate ones whose apps failed to open, and she reported to me that after two hours of waiting, and going through a range of negative emotions, a decision was taken to allow the examination to be done in the old fashioned, but reliable way.
My aim is not to question the judgement of the onsite invigilators and decision-makers. What is concerning is the poor judgment of CXC decision makers, who, by insisting on online multiplechoice examinations, appear to be operating on the assumption that “man is made for technology rather than technology made for man”.
Two issues are of concern here. The first is that, after the loud public outcry and loss of goodwill experienced by CXC over the conduct of examinations during the 2019 COVID period, that CXC did not consider it prudent to put a pause on all “experimentation” to allow for a period of cooling off period and a return to normalcy.
Secondly, given the importance of assessments as measurements of student quality and as a determinant of life chances, great care should be taken to ensure that there is nothing intrinsic to an examination environment that can negatively affect student performance. CXC ought to have assured itself of near 100 per cent success prior to utilising new technology in examinations.
CXC is too important to allow these constant hints of weakness. It should be airtight and the least problematic of our institutions. My recommendation to CXC is that it should perfect the basic aspects of its mandate, before venturing off into new territory, especially at a time when the stench of recent failures still pollute the atmosphere. For the sake of our children and the educational “ecosystem”, let us get it right.
Tennyson Joseph is a political scientist at The University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, specialising in regional affairs. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
What mental health services will be provided after you have allowed Lower 6 (ages 16-17) CAPE 2022 students to be placed under severe anguish, unfathomable physical distress and untold mental strain?
In one country, secondary school students have spent approximately seven weeks at school for face-to-face instruction in preparation for their CAPE Unit 1 exams scheduled for next month.
For those who do not know, Unit 2 of CAPE is completed in Upper 6 (17-18) as CAPE consists of two units over two years with two separate syllabuses and two separate exams. CSEC is a 2-year course of study which starts in 4th Form (14-15) and sees exams in 5th Form (15-16), by comparison. Unit 2 students had the benefit of last year’s experience when their Unit 1 exams began in June. That year’s experience still pushed many of their peers to venture off to technical and vocational studies, community college, UWI or the world of work instead of completing Unit 2.
Across the region, today, CAPE and CSEC candidates are in need of more time in order to complete the syllabus and ‘digest’ the material. I am disappointed but I am not surprised that good sense hasn’t prevailed. The Beckles stewardship model and the Wesleyan leadership style used by CXC do not endorse good sense.
Mses. Williams of Jamaica, McConney of Barbados, Gadsby-Dolly of Trinidad and Tobago, and Manickchand of Guyana, your countries are the major sources of candidates for CXC exams. Ladies, as Ministers of Education you need to challenge COHSOD to address the concerns of the students and teachers of the Caribbean where CXC is concerned with dutiful assiduity. If that fails, it is time enough to step out of your insular comfort zones and represent the children by all necessary and sufficient means.
Each one of the children matters and each one is not deaf or blind. Where education ends good sense should begin, not CXC exams.
At a webinar on Zoom recently, I presented part of a research paper I had originally delivered at a conference at the University the West Indies (UWI) in 2017 entitled “The Marginalisation and Exclusion of Indians by the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) in the CSEC and CAPE History and Literature Syllabi”. I was later given an opportunity to do the same presentation to the CXC Board at its headquarters in Barbados. CSEC and CAPE are equivalent to the O- and A- Level exams of long ago. In the Zoom and CXC Board presentations, I focused on the history syllabi.
I argued that Indians constitute about half of the population in Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Suriname, and form the largest minority in Jamaica, St Lucia, St Vincent, Grenada and Belize. I emphasised that we must adopt socially-just educational practices and cited the recommendations by UNESCO, the World Forum in Dakar, and the World Conference on Education-for-All in Thailand, that minority ethnic groups should not be disadvantaged in receiving an education, or excluded from the content of the curriculum.
The CXC CSEC Caribbean History syllabus consists of ten Core Topics and nine Themes. I said that the ten (10) Core Topics outlined for the 2011 to 2017 examinations range from “The Indigenous Peoples of the Americas” to “Regional Integration up to 1985”, but that only two (2) of those ten Core Topics partially address Indo-Caribbean History (Indentureship). These are Core Topic F: “Coming of the Chinese, Europeans, Indians and Africans” and Core Topic G: “The Establishment of the Peasantry 1838 to 1900”.
Arriving in the Caribbean after Emancipation under the indentureship scheme, Indians constituted 82.4% (430,300) of all indentured immigrants, whereas the Chinese, Portuguese, German, French and liberated African indentured immigrants together amounted to just 17.6% (91,600). Despite this huge disparity in numbers, Indians are lumped together with all the other immigrant ethnic groups under one heading. Accordingly, there should be a Core Topic on the subject of Indian immigration by itself if the impact that Indian immigrants have had on shaping the region is to be fully understood.
Indian Indentureship virtually excluded
The Core Topic regarding the establishment of the peasantry deals with the period 1838-1900. However, that period cannot adequately document the establishment and development of Indo-Caribbean Peasantry because the majority of Indians acquired their own land, on which they cultivated sugar cane, cocoa, rice and vegetables and reared cattle, after the abolition of indentureship (1917), and so their history and experiences are not sufficiently represented in this Core Topic.
As for the CAPE History syllabus, the marginalisation of Indian history is even more egregious Unit 1: “The Caribbean in the Atlantic World” consists of three modules: Module 1 – “Indigenous Societies”; Module 2 – “Slave Systems: Character and Dismantlement”; and Module 3 – “Freedom in Action”. The topics of settlement and citizenship of Chinese, Indian and Portuguese immigrants constitute just one portion of Theme 1, Module 3, with (i) “their social and economic experiences during indentureship and post-indentureship”, and (ii) “resistance” forming sub-topics. Module 1 focuses on Indigenous Peoples and Module 2 concentrates on African Peoples, rebellions and revolutions. Practically no attention is given to Indian Indentureship which has been described as a new system of slavery by Hugh Tinker and other historians. This module should have at least addressed the Indian Hosay/Muharram Massacre in October 30, 1884 which has been described as the bloodiest massacre in Trinidad and Tobago under British rule.
Unit 2 focuses on the Atlantic World and its global interactions (the interconnections among Europe, Africa and the Americas). There are, again, 3 Modules: “Atlantic World: Interactions”; “Atlantic Development: Identity and Industry”; and “International Relations: Conflict and Liberation” Apart from the topic of Gandhi and the nationalist movement, the Indian/Asian world and its long-standing presence and influence on Caribbean history is completely ignored.
Let us not forget that it was European explorer Christopher Columbus’s search for a shorter trade route to India to acquire more tea, silk, cotton and spices that resulted in the discovery and occupation of the Americas which, in turn, led to the African slave trade. In its day, the spice trade was the world’s biggest industry. It established and destroyed empires, led to the discovery of new continents, and in many ways, helped lay the foundation for the modern world. Unit 2 of the CXC CAPE History syllabus should have also included a theme on the Silk Road or Silk Route which was a network of trade routes that connected China, India, Persia, Arabia, the Horn of Africa and Europe for thousands of years.
Using content analysis as my main methodology, I concluded that the CXC History syllabus was Afrocentric and that standards at the institution were beneath UNESCO’s requirements. Not one of the topics, whether core or theme, does justice to the subject of Indo-Caribbean history and Indian immigration to the region.
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!
The Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) is a Caribbean institution. As Caribbean nationals, we should insist that the integrity of Caribbean institutions be protected. If our institutions provide a high-quality product, their integrity is automatically protected.
CXC has one main product – its examinations. There are three basic components of that product. Namely, a syllabus of information for students to understand, an examination that tests the students’ understanding of that syllabus, and correcting and scoring the examinations.
The students are responsible for understanding the syllabus of information, and doing the examination.
The most critically important part of CXC’s product, is correcting and scoring the exams. Therefore, CXC’s integrity is measured by the quality of its examiners.
Qualified examiners provide confidence in the integrity of CXC’s product, on which its reputation is sustained. The minimum academic qualification required to correct and score CXC examinations, is a Bachelor’s degree or its equivalent.
Students studying for a Bachelor’s degree may assist teachers to present and correct tutorials. But they are not qualified to correct CXC secondary school examinations. If they did, then that is the root cause of the current dissatisfaction, and no confidence can be placed in the results of those examinations.
If the CXC Board approved the use of first-degree university student examiners, then that is a regional scandal that can damage CXC’s reputation as a provider of quality examinations.
The obvious solutions are two-fold. First, qualified examiners must review all the examinations corrected and scored by unqualified examiners. Second, CXC should mandate that they will never use unqualified examiners to correct or score CXC examinations in the future.
If CXC maintains its secrecy on whether they used first-degree student examiners, and if they insist on using unqualified examiners in the future, then they would have damaged the integrity of the CXC examinations, and the reputation of the regional institution.
The Ministry of Education needs to tell the CXC Board to come clean. If they do not, then another examination body, with more integrity, should be used until they do.
Grenville Phillips II is a Chartered Structural Engineer and President of Solutions Barbados. He can be reached at NextParty246@gmail.com
Submitted by Felicia Dujon, Director of the Caribbean Mentorship Institute
The Caribbean Examination Council recently announced that over 11,000 pupils across the region who wrote the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) Exam (formerly O’levels) last May/June got no passes. The Caribbean Mentorship Institute has also raised concern on this alarming disclosure.
The institute which advocates and conducts research on Caribbean youths has observed an increasing trend of high school dropouts among male students as well. Ms. Felicia Dujon, the Director adds that “ though the figures are alarmingly high- we must consider that each fail grade is a young person who is failing academically. This raises serious concerns for the development of young persons in our region. The question remains whether we are making the impacts that are necessary for their growth and development. Are our curriculums preparing our students for future development? What alternative forms of education can these young persons have access to which will enable them to succeed economically and as contributing citizens. Too many of our young males are high-school drops out, and it is more alarming when it is occurring at the primary school level.
The Institute advises government and education officials to include vocational and mentoring programs in schools which will assist young men and women to have the additional support which is needed for their academic development. They observe that failing grades can contribute to low esteem and deviant behaviours if not addressed effectively. The Institute adds that according to research, Dr. Robert S. Byrd, an Associate Professor of Clinical Paediatrics, Division of General Paediatrics, University of California at Davis, Sacramento, California notes that failure in school can have lifelong consequences. The causes of school failure are myriad and often multiple within individual students who are struggling academically. Social, behavioural, and emotional problems frequently lead to academic difficulties. Health conditions also can impair academic performance. One in five children who repeats a grade in school has some identifiable disability. Irrespective of its cause, school failure is associated with adverse health outcomes. Children who fail in school are more likely to engage in subsequent health-impairing behaviours as adolescents. Failing students also are more likely to drop out of school. Adults who have no high school education often face limited economic opportunities, but they also are more likely to engage in health-impairing behaviours, to experience poor health, and to die at a younger age. Comprehensive approaches to evaluation and intervention may improve outcomes, and health care practitioners should play a vital role in these assessments. Moreover, clinicians can make a significant difference in outcomes by helping families identify the causes of failure and advocate for the resources to alter a child’s downward academic trajectory, preventing further compromise of a child’s health. Paediatric clinicians also should assess and intervene in risk behaviours of failing students. School readiness promotion and school failure prevention should be incorporated into routine health supervision visits.
The following article is reproduced from the Jamaica Observer newspaper. The article resonates because it dispels the notion that concerns expressed in the Barbados space about CXC are misplaced. Many continue to question the integrity of the grading system and the public remains none the wiser.
The integrity of the region’s secondary examination has been brought into question as some educators are uncomfortable with the recently implemented electronic marking system.
The high school teachers, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that the value of grades issued by the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) has degraded since the system’s implementation.
“The major concern is the results, what we are expecting as teachers, we are not getting,” one teacher, who heads the English Department at a Corporate Area school, said.
The CXC syllabus covers two years — grades 10 and 11 — and it is within this period of teaching and assessing that teachers are able to pinpoint whether a child is likely to pass, and with what grade.
According to the CXC website, candidates are awarded grades between one and six, with a grade one representing an “outstanding performance” and grade six, a representation of “a very limited standard of performance”.
“I am a teacher of English and there are some children in my class who I know can’t write a sentence and they go up and they get a [grade] one,” she said while noting acceptance that teachers aren’t always correct.
The department head related that the school’s equivalent in the Modern Languages Department also expressed concern about the performance of two students — one expected to do extremely well and another who consistently performed below average and was not expected to pass. When the results were published the usually poor-performing student was awarded a grade one, while the high achiever got a lower grade.
“It jumps out because this is the complaint all around and it’s not just this one case,” the teacher stated.
“We feel that the papers are not being marked properly because we are the ones who teach the students. We know what they are capable of, and students who are getting grades one and two we know — based on what we have seen with them for the last two years — that there is no way that they can get that grade,” an English instructor at the Corporate Area school added.
“A student at our school who can barely read got a grade two in English Language,” another English teacher from a rural high school told the Jamaica Observer. “Even students who failed the City & Guilds exam were passing CXC English.
“How can that happen?” he questioned. “The City & Guilds exam is usually for the slow students.”
The UK-based examination is dedicated to vocational studies and is aimed at recognising different types of learners. It provides certification for students who need an option as opposed to the CSEC exam.
Assistant Registrar, Public Information and Customer Services at the CXC Cleveland Sam, in a written response to the Sunday Observer noted that while there is no general pattern, candidates sometimes “exceed their teachers’ expectations” while others do not do as well as projected.
What is e-marking?
E-marking, which was first employed in 2013, facilitates the marking of scripts in an online environment rather than a physical location.
In its first year, there was over 90 per cent correlation between scripts marked electronically and manually, when compared.
The assistant registrar, in explaining the system’s stages, said the scripts are first scanned and separated by questions, then individual questions are assigned to markers. The scripts are then marked using random seeding to uphold quality standards, and finally samples of scripts at grade boundaries are reviewed to ensure cut scores are maintained each year.
Prior to e-marking, the CXC would conduct what was termed table marking, wherein papers would be marked manually in marking centres across the territory.
The chief markers, as explained by the English HOD, would be flown to a location to meet and determine the acceptable answers and mark schemes. These individuals would then return to their territories and train table leaders — who would be responsible for up to six markers — using the established scheme from the previous island.
“We would come up with other things in that training process and then the markers would come in. When they came in we went through the process again and we would add and subtract, it would be an argument, for want of a better word, in an attempt to come to the best mark scheme and then the marking would begin,” the teacher explained.
Recounting an instance where papers had to be recalled and re-marked following the re-evaluation of an answer that was initially considered incorrect, the teacher noted that table marking facilitated ease of communication.
Comparatively, the Corporate Area English teacher asserted that e-marking limits the accepted answers to the CXC’s prescribed responses and lacks effective communication.
“I know there is room for giving feedback, voicing your concerns and having the chief respond to you, but in terms of changing the seed (prescribed answers), now that is not done,” the tutor said. “What happens now is that if you keep marking away from the seed you’re gonna be thrown off or you get bumped out of the system, and you can’t continue marking until you are re-added by your supervisor.”
The current system uses a method called seeding, whereby for every few scripts seeds (pre-marked papers) and presented randomly to the marker as unmarked scripts. Each seed has a prescribed total and if the marker’s total does not match, the marker is stopped.
The marker is bumped from the system after three “errors”.
The English Department head believes this causes markers “to adhere to the mark scheme slavishly” instead of fairly considering a candidate’s response.
But CXC, in debunking the teacher’s claim, maintained that e-marking improves the quality of marking through consistent seeding — a more effective method to sampling done in the past.
“More robust controls are applied earlier since the marks are immediately available for analysis. In the past, the marks were captured via data entry process that was several days behind marking as well as had the potential to introduce errors due to wrong keying,” Sam’s response stated.
“It allows for wider participation, since CXC was unable to fly persons from all territories and sought to use more markers where the centres were located. Now, markers from all territories have equal opportunity to mark. [Additionally] marking can be started earlier, since teachers are not removed from classroom,” he added.
According to the CXC, e-marking is also beneficial as is it insulates the marking process from the escalating cost of travel and accommodation; and reduces/eliminates the manual operations around marking, scoring and grading.
“CXC believes that the papers are being marked properly given the multiple layers of quality assurance,” the response read.
The outlined multiple layers listed were the fact that potential markers are pre-qualified; a standardisation process is used to ensure specifications are met before going live; random seeding at 10 to 20 per cent is done to maintain marking quality; distribution of marks by measurement officers is reviewed; and sampling of marked responses at grade boundaries to ensure year on year standards is carried out.
Grades issued before marking
The educators also expressed concern that grades were released before all the scripts were marked.
The department said that in one instance, the day before the results were released, “thousands of scripts” were not yet marked.
“I thought it lacked integrity because I don’t understand how it is that, overnight, these unmarked scripts got marked,” she told the Sunday Observer.
She claimed that up to a week before results were released this year, the organisation was still sending e-mails to recruit markers.
“They were asking for markers for English Language, English Literature, Mathematics etc. They were asking for markers in these subject areas but the wording suggested to me that you don’t have to be a specialist in the area,” she said.
But the CXC, while denying the amount, said results have been published before all scripts papers were marked.
“There are cases of papers not being marked up to the release of results. This is what is referred to as ‘mop-up’ marking, but it’s not usually ‘thousands’. We have had mop-up marking since the implementation of e-marking,” Sam responded.
Regarding recruitment, he explained that non-teachers are eligible to mark scripts once they are able to pass pre-qualification and are marking to the specified standard.
He said that upon recruitment, individuals are taken through a process of pre-qualification wherein their certification is verified before they are permitted to mark scripts.
“Once this has been completed, they are taken through training on the marking tool, then standardisation on the question he/she is assigned to mark,” Sam stated. “The standardisation process involves the understanding of the marking instructions, then marking up to 40 items to ensure they are marking to the chief examiner’s specification. If within tolerance, they move on to live marking, otherwise, they are suspended.”
Pointing out that most teachers marked because “it was good money” and the experience in marking aided teaching the syllabus, one teacher argued that marking is no longer worth it.
“At the end of the day, sitting down for seven hours for five days in a week to mark hundreds of scripts…of course you expect that you are going to be paid and the pay is good,” she reasoned. “[But] when they started the online marking they changed the pay system and you were paid per script, but the money was quoted in Bajan (Barbadian) dollars and questions are weighted differently.”
Instead of having a flat rate, she noted that an individual marking an essay question would, for example, receive roughly BBD$1.58 (J$100.65) per script, while an individual marking comprehension would receive BBD$0.56 ($35.67) per paper.
“So when you do the conversion and you work it out, if you mark say 1500 scripts you don’t even make close to the $80,000 that you used to make, especially if you are marking comprehension,” she disclosed. “And you’re using your time, your Internet, your electricity…because all they do is provide the software that you load on to your personal computer and you sit, on your time, and do it.”
However, CXC argued that the new payment plan is to ensure that persons were rewarded based on their level of work.
“With the flat rate everyone got the same reward regardless of the volume marked or the quality of their work,” the response noted.
“The new system seeks to reward those who complete more scripts with more pay. Those who are not able to maintain the standard are suspended and hence receive lower pay. We have also examined the effort on questions and have categorised them accordingly. As such, an average hour of effort should result in the same level of payment, even though the number of scripts marked may differ,” it continued.
The teachers expressed concern for the possible implications these issues may have on the region’s credibility in education.
“CXC is the benchmark for the territory and when you are giving grades to children who are not competent, when they move away from here — whether they go to university here or abroad — it is going to show up that they are not competent, and then the entire education system is going to be blamed,” the English teacher reasoned.
“The problem does not stem from what the teachers are doing, [but] what the exam is prescribing. That is why a lot of the teachers at the university level have a problem with the way that the students write, because they are coming to the universities with the grade ones from CSEC but at the same time they are not able to construct a proper persuasive essay or a proper expository essay.”
“They are not competent!” the English HOD stressed.
The educators argued that it is neither fair to the students nor the education system, as the incompetence is detrimental to both and the region’s reputation.
“It is so unfair if a child prepares and was expecting to do well and that does not happen; then children who were not performing do well and come and say ‘Miss look how you nuh believe in me an me get one’ and you as a teacher know they are not competent.”
The barrage of issues have frustrated the teachers who, like others, have opted out of marking scripts.
The CXC reported a shortage of markers for animation, digital media, and fin services — relatively new subjects. However, with what the examining committee referred to as the “small” number of entries, it was not beyond the capacity of the committee to complete marking.
“The veteran teachers are pulling out because the marking tool is not interactive nor user-friendly; it is too inflexible and not worth the pressure,” the teacher at the rural school disclosed.
While noting that the previous method was costly, the department head suggested that e-marking be employed when reviewing arithmetic subjects.
“CXC has decided to go ahead with this electronic marking and I think it can work for some subjects like numerical subjects where one plus one equals two, but with regards to others which require discussion, like the reading subjects, no,” she said.
Noting that the previous system encouraged regional integration, she suggested that the examining committee allow markers to gather at marking centres within their territories to mark, as opposed to travelling across the region.
Over 95 per cent of all components were marked electronically this year.
Cleveland Sam, Assistant Registrar Public Information and Customer Service
BU Commenter Ping Pong posted the following two comments to highlight a matter that should be of concern to all Barbadians.
On 25th August @ 6:03 David posted in this thread, a report by Cara Foster titled: CXC not in business of failing students.
In that report Mr Cleveland Sam of CXC is quoted as saying “There’s a Paper 1, which is a multiple choice, a Paper 2, which is the structured, answered questions and the SBAs [School-Based Assessments]. If the SBA component of the examination has not been received by CXC, then the student is given ‘ungraded’,”
On page 4 of today’s edition of Barbados Today, Mr Ronald Jones, Minister of Education, is reported to be saying that the case of ungraded results had nothing to do with SBAs!!
Well what did cause CXC to issue ungraded results and other spurious results?
Like much else in Barbados, the standards and reliability of our once excellent education system is slipping. However what is really disturbing is that the citizens are apathetic and unconcerned.
“When CXC results were released on August 18, entire classes from Combermere, The St Michael, Grantley Adams Memorial and Springer Memorial Schools were left bewildered when they received an ungraded score for their school-based assessments (SBAs).
“Where we have been given the evidence of the SBAs, those have been marked and the students would have received updated pre-slips through the local registrar,” CXC spokesman Cleveland Sam told the WEEKEND NATION yesterday.
Sam said the marking would have occurred in recent days but shed no further light on the matter.”
I am left to speculate that if no intervention was made by the Ministry then those students would have been left with ungraded results.
Yet all those in charge at CXC will continue along merrily! Will the Ministry of Education strongly request an investigation of CXC and in particular of the online marking process? Will the Ministry stop be so subservient to CXC and assert its status as the agent of the owners of CXC i.e. the people of the Caribbean Community?
Before Bush Tea chimes in, or are we all really brassbowls?
Concerned parents wnat to know how CXC will respond to the reported glitch in the Maths paper.
In the fourth and fifth paragraphs of the Barbados Today ‘Glitch in CXC Maths Paper’ article it states:
“One parent who complained that her son was ‘distraught’ when he came out of the examination room, said he didn’t complete the paper because it was ‘numbered incorrectly…”It was out of order, and when he put up his hand to ask the invigilator a question she asked him if he was slow. So I contacted parents that I know who had students also did it (wrote the Math paper) from other schools, and everybody had the same thing that the paper was in a mess,” she said”.
Pray tell me, is an invigilator only there to look pretty?
It’s an invigilator’s job to assist those who are taking exams in whatever way he/she can. That invigilator was therefore way out of line by not trying to assist that student. Worse yet was to ask him if he were “slow”.
As far as I recall, we in Barbados have gone beyond that line of thinking!
The question here is also whether she gave that answer because it was a male student, as some females do not know how far to carry their feminism.
I would suggest that his parents write a letter to the Ministry of Education with a copy to the head of the invigilators and state his case against said invigilator because he couldn’t complete his paper as she didn’t have the right attitude for the job. She hasn’t the stuff of which invigilators are made. It’s obvious that if they don’t have any patience and exhibit it in front of students then the students will become flustered.
How will those students be graded now?
Will the young man – and other students – get a chance to take the exam again?
Methinks that the exam should be set for another date so that students can have the opportunity of having the pages in the correct order.
It would be only fair to the students and their parents/guardians
The recent SBA saga has taken centre stage in the educational conversation of Barbados. One might have missed the Minister’s pronouncement of a number of new codes including mobile technology, or the launch of the new school for troubled teens or even the good news coming out of BSSAC, NAPSAC and some schools’ Speech Days.
We’ve heard and seen the BSTU (“supported by the BUT”…whatever that means) make an impassioned plea for their members to not mark SBAs in support of their demand for payments.
From the outset let’s agree on a few things:
It’s the Union’s right to request payment, whether they get it or not.
It’s the Union’s right to take action to “force” discussion or resolution on the matter.
It’s the Union’s right to represent teachers who believe their their workload has become too burdensome, whether it is or not
It’s a Ministry’s responsibility to speak to its employees and/or their representatives proactively and on request
It’s a travesty when issues like this drag on for so long to the detriment of everyone.
The recent impasse by the Barbados Secondary Teachers Union (BSTU) and the regional body of the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) has begged the question…In whose interest are these Union bodies acting?
How can a union and its members take as prisoners the future leaders of this society by abandoning the process and not marking School Based Assessment papers?
The children of this country’s future will be jeopardized…If the issue is one of volume of work that is to be undertaken and the Union is asking for more money. … Will increase money solve the volume of work or will it make the teachers happier this summer ?
The case put on behalf of the Union should not have to see the children of Barbados suffering … I am calling on all parents no matter if your child is at this juncture to condemn the insensitive action of the Union and its leaders…
Children don’t sign cheques and yet they are asked to pay…
Submitted by Guyana Trades Union Congress – Press release, 26th January, 2015
The Guyana Trades Union Congress (GTUC) registers shock and disgust that the Government of Guyana has decided to reschedule CXC examinations, a regional calendar item, to fulfil their need. CXC is a timbale event, not only national in nature but also regional. To shift the CXC speaks to questionable integrity in this whole act. Why change the regional calendar event to meet a desperate need to host elections around Arrival Day and purported visit of the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. This shift in dates add pressure to our children looking to conclude schooling by a particular date, and teachers who will now have an additional timetable to keep students focused on the added month to complete exams.
There is no national disaster to justify shifting a regional exam of such import. One can only suspect that the Ramotar regime places the future of our youth second place to the desperate quest for election victory.