Wed | Dec 12, 2018

Letter of the Day | Don't use SBAs to inflate exam grades

Published:Tuesday | December 5, 2017 | 12:00 AM


The Caribbean Examinations Council has introduced a school-based assessment component for mathematics and English language. However, internal assessments for both subjects are not necessary. It makes no sense to argue that these subjects should have SBAs because they are required by disciplines like physics and chemistry. Assessments may have been introduced for the sciences and other areas to allow students to develop a greater appreciation for their respective disciplines. Yet, despite the existence of SBAs for physics, chemistry and biology, there is no evidence that students are becoming more interested in learning or that the pass rates are getting better.

For example, of the three, biology is the only subject with a pass rate above 60 per cent, and since these grades consistently fluctuate, it is hard to judge the impact of the SBAs on the academic outcomes of students. Some analysts argue that having assessments for mathematics and English will allow more students to pass the subjects, but such reasoning could never be based on logic.

In recent years, these same analysts have complained that the exams have got easier; therefore, to implement a policy that will increase the propensity of students to pass the exams would only inflate grades.

The exams offered by CXC are not hard, and markers are instructed to not be overly rigorous. Hence, the unsatisfactory failure rates suggest that most of our teachers and students are operating below their intellectual capacity. Creating internal assessments for mathematics and English language may inflate already inflated grades or have no effect on learning outcomes.

It does not matter how the issue is analysed, these assessments will only waste the time of teachers and students.

The reality is that politicians in the region are adamant about increasing access to university education, and one way to do this is to get more people to pass CSEC subjects by making the exams as easy as possible. However, if matriculation to university is not based on quality, we will continue to have a situation in which people are employed because they possess degrees, but are unable to perform in their specific roles. The objective of regional leaders should be to have an education system in which both students and teachers are able to perform effectively and not one obsessed with having more people attaining subjects, so it appears that the region is moving forward.