THE EDITOR, Sir:
Most teachers of English in Jamaica have noted with concern the sudden decline in the results, both locally and regionally, of the 2012 English A (English language) examination at the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) level.
We are aware that the criterion-referenced CSEC English A examination is taken each year by more than a hundred thousand candidates regionally. We know, too, that standardised test result averages do not normally vary significantly from one year to the next, there being similar populations, similar preparation of candidates, and similar marking schemes for tests of a similar difficulty level.
The 2012 results for this examination have shown a dramatic 20 percentage-point decline from those of the previous year.
Explanations offered by a Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) representative indicate that an extraordinary number of candidates totally misunderstood the summary item on Paper 2. Surely, the CXC authorities should be required to explain whether the pretesting of the summary item (which was presumably carried out) revealed nothing to suggest that it would be more difficult than usual, and therefore should be replaced.
CXC has also suggested that the surprising results might be explained if a large number of poorly prepared new entries had suddenly been added to the population - of which no evidence has been offered.
We must ask why the CXC measurement specialists did not, in the end, insist on the examination being reviewed to ensure that the results could be reliably compared with those of previous years.