Sat | Jun 6, 2020

Nadine Molloy | Don’t throw CXC under the bus

Published:Tuesday | May 19, 2020 | 12:00 AM
Nadine Molloy
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AS A teacher and principal of many years who has seen changes and improvements in our education system over the years, I am perturbed today. COVID-19 has really laid so many things bare. It is time for another leap in the right direction.

With respect to our external regional examination body, the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC), I am happy that there is a measure of independence in how it operates. Standards are to be maintained, and they are not be subject to how the wind blows. As it relates to the current external examination dilemma, I am of the opinion that we cannot keep the children in exam mode unnecessarily for an extended period of time without any fallout.

The best-case scenario for me is to plan for the earliest administration date of the exam, and if that date does not prove feasible because of health concerns, then we move to the next possible date. In a worst-case scenario, the exams may have to be abandoned for this year. That is a looming reality.

Especially if we are going to have some interface before the actual examination, we know we have to plan for transportation, sanitisation, physical distancing, protective equipment, etc. Things like how do we rationalise the use of examination centres that, by the way, fall under the jurisdiction of CXC and the Overseas Examination Office. Looking at where the CXC hardship clauses will apply is also applicable at this time, where students who are ill will need provision made for them based on circumstances. The community and its needs will determine how that is done on the ground.

I feel sad that with less than a month lost out of a two-year Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) programme that many schools do introduce in grade nine, we are now saying our students are not ready. What have we been doing, then? And we include every last person related to the education process of these children. We are ignoring the fact that some have chosen to not be reached at all. Yes, it is true.

I am very aware of the psychosocial side of things and how important they are. We must plan for that too, as we have done every single year that we have exams. I believe that is why many principals favour a period of interaction before the exams.

STRATEGIES ARE DIFFERENT

I have worked in both traditional and non-traditional high schools, both as principal and classroom teacher, therefore, I know that the programme can be completed by the end of the Easter break – give or take a week or two. Strategies are different for each school’s needs, but it can be done. So what is this saying to us as educators? We need to think long and hard. Unfortunately, there are some students who would not have been ready, and will not be ready, for various reasons. Let us not pretend that they will be ready for exams anytime this year. What I really hope is that we are thinking and planning during this time how we can significantly reduce that number to zero in the coming years.

It makes no sense to attack CXC. It makes more sense to look inward and take a decision that where we need to, it is imperative that we make the radical changes we need to, going forward. In addition, we are also reminded that our internal scores are not standardised across the island or region.

Some students and parents take the SBAs process as a joke. We are abused when we attempt to press them for timely completion. Some teachers are just plain fed up, and others are not doing as they should. Principals are branded as evil when we attempt to urge greater professionalism. You can never be doing the right thing when you tell someone they are wrong. Those are the ones who are now ‘enjoying their break.’ We need to call a spade a spade. Most educators are doing as they should, and it is sad that they are being ‘broad-brushed’ today by the minority.

THINK ABOUT THE BIGGER PICTURE

The same modified process that is being supported by the majority of our secondary-school principals of the use of SBAs and the multiple-choice paper for both CAPE (Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination) and CSEC was used in 1986, when there were serious floods in Jamaica. This was again the case during the 2010 sitting which was affected by the Tivoli incursion. The affected students were assessed on only one paper and their SBA scores. I am not aware that there were adverse effects on those who sat the exams then. I am also aware that international consultation was done and this mode will meet acceptance for those of our students who will study internationally. We have to think about the bigger picture and not just about those in our corner.

These are not normal times; therefore, we cannot expect that the flawed ideals and perfect situations that existed will still obtain. It is not business as usual.

Now, it is sad that we want CXC to take the fall for the shortcomings that we created. No, we need to look at ourselves and our actions over the years. We object to every new and innovative thing that is introduced. Those who perhaps could have done more to facilitate funding or policy directives may have failed us, too. Many of those things would have been serving us well today.

Nadine Molloy is the principal of Ardenne High School. Feedback: columns@gleanerjm.com.