Those who are wont to decry - and there are many - the quality and efficacy of anything formulated and executed in the Caribbean might give thought to the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC).
The CXC is an institution of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). It sets secondary-school examinations, primarily for students in this region, assuming a place of primacy formerly occupied by the English examination bodies, Cambridge and London universities.
Significantly, CXC is marking its 40th year of existence, an occasion that was marked in Jamaica on Sunday with a service at the Webster Memorial United Church in Kingston. We are surprised that more was not made of the event, or the celebrations more broadly, because we believe that the CXC has much of which to be proud.
Four decades in span is not short, but it is sufficient time for institutions to establish themselves and to show their mettle. By any reasonable analysis, the CXC has proved worthy.
The most crucial test for any such institution is the confidence and trust that those who use its service repose in it. In four decades, tens of thousands of Caribbean students have sat the CXC examinations with few questions, or qualms, about the integrity of what has been on offer.
More important, for those who use the exams as a measure of base knowledge, while they are contextually appropriate for Caribbean students, they remain globally relevant. They have the respect of educational institutions, and employers, outside the region.
Such things don't just happen. They usually are the result of hard work and innovation such as the CXC's pioneering work in curriculum development.
Indeed, the CXC was ahead of most of its UK counterparts in testing students on their ability to apply what they have learned, over a broader span of assessments, than what is remembered on the day for the formal exam.
CXC, however, cannot rest on its laurels. For its obligation to human and economic development in the Caribbean, the basis of its existence, requires it to be dynamic and flexible enough to respond to changes in the environment to which our region as a whole, as its individual states, must accommodate. We are confident of the CXC's ability in this respect.
New ideas and opportunities
The planned launch this year of curricula in areas such as entrepreneurship, tourism and environmental sciences will add skills and, hopefully, help open up the innovative capacities of regional students in areas that have not been the focus of secondary education. Perhaps this will lead to new ideas and opportunities for enterprise, job creation, and employment.
It is in this context that we have a few other suggestions for the CXC, including endorsing some ideas raised in this newspaper by Wayne Chen, the president of the Jamaica Employers' Federation.
The CXC already works with national education systems to enhance the quality of teaching and learning in subjects in which its examines students. We believe that this interaction should be broadened and deepened, especially in the core subjects of math, English and the sciences, where we have serious problems.
We believe, too, that the CXC should more robustly partner with school/education ministries, the private sector and enterprises to, as Mr Chen suggests, expand the real-life, practical components of the learning process.
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