CXC students give mixed views on two-week extension

STUDENTS who will be sitting Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) examinations next month have responded with mixed views to the two-week postponement announced by the regional examining body yesterday.

Instead of the previously announced June 15 date, Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC), Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) and Caribbean Certificate of Secondary Level Competence (CCSLC) examinations will now commence on Thursday, June 28.

Anthony Parker, a CAPE Unit One student of Calabar High School, told the Jamaica Observer that he appreciates the extra two weeks.

“It’s kinda good, being that you have students, including myself, who are not quite prepared for the exams or are not at the level that they want to be. Personally, I am not at the level I want to be as yet [and] the two-week extension can definitely get me there. Students have time to practise, study, beat the past papers and all of that, so it’s quite beneficial,” Parker said.

Yesterday, Dr Wayne Wesley, CXC registrar, told journalists at a media briefing that the delay “will provide candidates with extra time to prepare for the examinations”.

Further, the deadline for candidates to register their intent to defer until next year has been extended to May 31, and School Based Assessment (SBA) submissions have also been extended to June 30.

Dr Wesley additionally announced that students can expect grades during the last week of September to the first week of October.

Said Parker: “The SBA submission date also pushed back to June 30 is also a good thing. The fact that students get to work more and probably gather more information for the SBAs so that they are well done and so that they can get the maximum marks, is good.”

All his SBAs, Parker said, have been completed since April.

“The extension is kinda not really for me but I know this new deadline is beneficial to teachers and students, so it’s good. All of this extra time is good. Also, the exams may probably go into some students’ summer and then the results will probably be released even later, but I don’t think that will really affect anybody,” he said.

“Last year’s results were released in mid-September and everybody worked with the flow and all of that. Everybody will work with it. It’s a good look.”

In the meantime, Olivia Brown, a CAPE student of The Queen’s School in St Andrew, believes the extension is insufficient.

“In my opinion, the Caribbean Examination Council evidently disregarded the recommendations made by UNICEF [the United Nations Children’s Fund] and the different ministries of education,” she said.

The most recent recommendation from UNICEF came on Monday in which the agency urged CXC and ministers of education in the region to make adjustments to the content and administration of exit exams in line with recommendations made by the Caribbean Union of Teachers (CUT), to ensure that the region’s students are not further disadvantaged.

Brown is adamant that more time is needed for students to prepare properly.

“Jamaican institutions, like those in other Caribbean countries, are facing the same issue as it relates to the completion of syllabi. Myself, along with many of my colleagues, most definitely know that two weeks is a very short time to complete what is left to be taught by teachers and also to properly comprehend [the material]…as students.”

Added Brown: “I’m most definitely not ready. However, the two weeks will simply help me to sharpen up my writing and analytical skills as it relates to the paper two exams for the social sciences.”

Dr Wesley had mentioned that after careful deliberation and consideration of all the pertinent issues, the council, which is made up of the government representatives of the region, also agreed the administration of all papers will be maintained.

“CXC will administer CAPE, CSEC and CCSLC examinations in their original format. This means for CAPE and CSEC, papers one and two, and paper 3(1) – the School Based Assessment (SBA) – or paper 3(2) for private candidates. And for CCSLC, papers one and two,” he explained.

Shaheem Rouldson of Wolmer’s High School for Girls, who will be sitting her CSEC examinations next month, told the Observer that she is pleased with the extension.

“The more time given means more time for studying and better preparation for the exams. I, for one, needed more time for studies as classwork and homework are still being given and the syllabi are still being taught, which means narrowed and shortened time for studies. I most definitely welcome the extension,” she declared.

“And no, it will not cause me to lose anticipation as, over the period, every minute there was a change pertaining to what is going to be done regarding exams and so, anticipation was already lost and replaced with a ‘It is what it is and whatever they say’ attitude,” added Rouldson.

The candidate admitted, however, that the idea may or may not be reasonable, depending on who is asked.

“My thoughts are that it makes sense as it gives more time to not only study and grasp topics, but for the teachers to teach the topics that have not been taught as yet. In all that convenience it poses many inconveniences just the same, as many students such as myself have been anticipating the summer holidays for leisure time. The previous fourth form into fifth form was a struggle which took a toll on my mental health [due to the coronavirus pandemic].

“In addition, in most subjects papers one and two are being done on the same day, so it is challenging to do as much past papers.”

Meanwhile, Shantay Williams, a CAPE Unit One student of Campion College, hoped that they would’ve only been doing one paper per subject.

“The last CSEC exams we did paper one only. The results weren’t great for everybody. And now that we’re basically further into the pandemic, I don’t see how doing paper one and paper two is going to help. I am pretty sure this whole online thing has taken a toll on students mentally, especially students who are not in environments conducive to learning,” said Williams.

“Not to mention students who don’t have devices and access to Internet. Most students aren’t ready and most students are not going to be ready. The damage has already been done. Students are already demotivated. Some students are just holding on by a thread.

“The break that we’re supposed to get to reboot to go into the next school year is basically gone. The cycle is just going over again. We’re just going to go over in the next school year, most likely with the same mindset, and that’s just not good. We don’t get a break. We’re just running and running into school.

“I don’t think students have fully faced the reality that they’re about to do CSEC and CAPE paper one and two. We have not been doing much in-person tests – more specifically, writing tests so it’s a huge step.”

Jasford Gabriel, president of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA), questioned whether CXC’s decisions were made in the interest of the students or the council itself.

“It is quite clear that the Caribbean Examination Council has determined that the changes recommended re paper one and paper two will not be facilitated. These changes, along with the delay in the submission of the School Based Assessment, we had long postulated would’ve made the most significant, positive change in meeting the greatest need of our students.

“This is when we consider the experience of our students throughout the pandemic. The changes that have been made by CXC are the ones that are obviously most convenient to them and therefore begs the question as to whether the main consideration is for the students. The original and biggest question still remains: ‘How can students be expected to effectively complete paper one which requires the coverage of the entire syllabi?’ ” Gabriel lamented.

Sir Hilary Beckles, the CXC chair, said that the council isn’t aware of the “extent to which cost can be predicted” following the council’s adjustments and the potential financial setback.

And Dr Wesley said, “The cost is marginal and it relates to just the rescheduling of the examination because it is a movement of two weeks.”


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