Tue | Feb 25, 2020

Letter of the Day | CSEC Math: Something went wrong

Published:Wednesday | May 22, 2019 | 12:20 AM

An open letter to the Caribbean Examinations Council:



My brother sat the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) Mathematics Exam (Paper 2). He is an excellent mathematics student and when I heard his concerns, I knew something went wrong. He complained about the length of the questions; the value (score) of each question and the time given to complete the paper.

Now, he is a student from a prominent high school in Manchester. This is a boy who has been excelling in math since his primary-school days, achieving well in the 90s for Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) and improving this throughout his high-school years, rounding off his internal CSEC math average to about 100 per cent (who gets that in grade 11?).

His teacher was expecting a distinction from him. Now his chances are slim for even a grade II. He did not finish his exam. He said he left several questions undone because it was impossible to complete them in the time allotted.

The only comfort he had was that all the other students felt the same way. Many came out of the exam in tears. But they all knew it was not their fault.

The structure and design of this year’s exam must be brought under careful scrutiny: the time, type of questions and mark allotted must be reviewed. I gather that the questions were more on the critical thinking side. That is fine with me. I always want students to think and reason things out. But if the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) is to introduce a new style and structure to its exam, then all the factors must be taken into consideration.

I hold CXC in high regard, to the point where, when I heard the complaints, I began to wonder how was it possible that that kind of paper reached the students. Given exam protocol, wouldn’t the paper be proofread and vetted by different persons at different levels for content, structure and practicality? Shouldn’t the paper be pretested, under exam conditions, to ensure that prepared candidates can successfully complete the examination? CSEC Math 2019 lacked the standard that I know CXC has. Simply put, the exam was disproportionate in the type and length of the questions and the time given. An additional hour would have made it achievable.

I observe that many CSEC subjects are being restructured. But this should not be to the detriment of the students. Any modification in the syllabi must enhance student’s performance. And quality control must never cease to be operational.

My charge to CXC is to quickly conduct its post-mortem and devise a practicable solution so that the students’ grades can reflect their true ability.

I suggest that the Overseas Examinations Commission and the Ministry of Education continue to make representation on behalf of the Jamaican students to minimise any untoward results.