Thu | Jan 24, 2019

Exams are the business of the OEC

Published:Sunday | May 3, 2015 | 12:00 AMRuth Howard

OEC - the exam watchmen

Title: Administering Overseas Examinations in Jamaica - A History of the Overseas Examinations Commission, 1887-2007

Author: Patrick E. Bryan

Their mission is to "effectively and efficiently administer access to exams and provide applicable accompanying support". Their watchwords? Integrity, reliability, innovation, and efficiency.

With more than 128 years under its belt, the Overseas Examinations Commission (OEC) has been the silent champion of Jamaican futures, working behind the scenes to facilitate the smooth running of overseas examinations in the island.

Most people know about the importance of the Caribbean Examinations Council's (CXC) flagship exams at the high-school level - the Caribbean Secondary Examinations Certificate (CSEC) and the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations (CAPE) - but very few know about the OEC's work to ensure that these exams are reliable and accurately administered every year.


In addition, the OEC oversees a United Kingdom-based international suite of secondary exams; conducts seminars for teachers, students, and private candidates; prepares, issues, verifies and replaces exam results and certificates; collates exam statistics; and handles queries, re-mark requests, and transcripts.

It has been the silent enabler - of millions of Jamaicans who use these exams as a stepping stone to tertiary education or as qualifiers for the world of work.

To celebrate its longevity, the OEC has published a book on the history of the organisation. Titled Administering Overseas Examinations in Jamaica - A History of the Overseas Examinations Commission, 1887-2007, the book, written by Professor Patrick Bryan, chronicles the development of the OEC from a small, voluntary committee to an internationally recognised commission.

In nine chapters, Bryan gives insight into the history of what has become an indispensable part of the Jamaican exams landscape. As he states in his introduction, the telling of the OEC's story "is an extension of the story of high-school education and education policy in Jamaica". The book will, therefore, prove useful for those seeking a deeper understanding of how the nation's education and examination systems have developed over the years.

There are tables showing the figures for exam entrance fees, the numbers of candidates sitting these exams, and the passes in each over the years. There are also pictures of some of the country's oldest and finest educational institutions and educators, as well as of chairmen and executive teams that have led the OEC.

relevance to j'can history

Speaking on the relevance of this book to Jamaican history and heritage, Bryan says, "One thing missing in Jamaica is solid work on its history of education. This is very important because education has been one of the major means of mobilisation for the poor man."

"[Parents] want to be sure their children are sitting exams where they can do their best. They want to know that when they get results they can believe that that is what they did ... that it is reliable internationally," added Neville Ying, current chairman of the OEC. With this in mind, the OEC has produced a book that shows how, over the years, it has developed and implemented a system to ensure that exams are conducted with integrity, reliability, innovation, and efficiency.