Sun | Jul 5, 2020

Exam rejig rankles principals, students

Published:Tuesday | June 2, 2020 | 12:25 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer

School administrators and secondary-school students have criticised the decision to change exam dates, with the acting president of the Association of Principals and Vice Principals, Lynton Weir, expressing “serious concern” about performance standards.

Exam students who continue to be “turned on and turned off”, said Weir, were being put on to an emotional roller-coaster that might ultimately threaten their grades.

His warning came a day after the Government announced new dates for the sitting of the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) exams. But the adjustment should not have been a shocker as Trinidad and Tobago Education Minister Anthony Garcia telegraphed last Thursday that sittings would begin on July 13.

Jamaican school leaders appeared to be unaware of the decision to timetable the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) and the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) two weeks earlier than last scheduled.

In a virtual meeting held by the Overseas Examinations Commission and the education ministry on Monday, acting Permanent Secretary Dr Grace McLean issued an apology to principals.

“It has to do with other countries in the Caribbean in terms of some of the challenges they are having, and she spoke to the hurricane season and the predictions as it relates to the season being an active one,” Weir said.

While the principals’ association president explained that he understood the explanation, he said it would have been better if administrators had been advised beforehand.

Minister with responsibility for education, Karl Samuda, said that 132,000 Jamaican students will commence exams on July 13 rather than July 27.

“It has been brought forward through a process of collaboration with our colleagues in the Caribbean and the leadership of the Overseas Examinations Commission,” Samuda said at a press briefing at Jamaica House on Sunday.

“It was felt that our desire to have these exams out of the way, certainly for Jamaica before Independence, we arrived at a date of July 13.”

CAPE exams will end on July 31 while CSEC exams will conclude on August 4.

Lack of inclusion shocking

The National Secondary Students’ Council (NSSC) told The Gleaner on Monday that students are “disheartened and shocked”.

However, the council noted that the more problematic issue was the lack of inclusion of student stakeholders in decision making, a concern Samuda dismissed at Sunday’s press conference.

“The importance of student and youth participation is outlined in many legislative frameworks, including the Education Regulations, which legally gives the students’ council the right to partake in decision making that affects them,” the council wrote.

Going forward, the student body wants to see a “greater sense of intentionality and inclusion of the student and youth voice” beyond the scope of the education ministry.

Weir, who is also principal of Old Harbour High School, shared that he would be hosting a meeting shortly with exam candidates at his institution and is urging other schools to do likewise.

“Each time you make a change, you have to go back to your target audience, which are your students, explain to them and try not to allow them to become demotivated,” he said.

The final exam timetables are available at https://www.cxc.org/download-timetables.

judana.murphy@gleanerjm.com