Physics exam probe on at Jamaica College - Grades withheld for dozens of sixth-formers in CAPE subject
Tyrone Reid, Senior Staff Reporter
Seventy sixth-form students at Jamaica College (JC) are to know their fate as soon as the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) mulls whether they will receive a grade for physics in the 2013 edition of the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) after discrepancies related to that subject were unearthed by an Overseas Examinations Commission (OEC)-led investigation.
The OEC investigation was spawned by a complaint sent to the CXC headquarters in Barbados alleging that JC had fabricated the internal assessment grades for its CAPE physics students.
When contacted on Friday, Ruel Reid, headmaster at JC, said he would not comment on the matter. However, the principal of the all-boys high school said the institution was handling the situation.
"We have had discussions with the students and parents impacted. It is an internal matter. The students who have been affected, I have worked assiduously to have them placed. JC takes care of its students," said Reid.
Hector Stephenson, local registrar and executive director at the OEC, confirmed that a probe was conducted at the popular all-boys secondary school.
"We conducted an investigation at Jamaica College because apparently a teacher who was dismissed from JC sent a letter directly to CXC and it was forwarded to us," said Stephenson.
He added: "We met with the principal and the head of department and established that lab books were in place for CAPE physics. There were a few discrepancies that were noticed. When we did the exercise, there were three books that should have been submitted to the Council that were still at the school.
"That was curious because if those books were at CXC then they shouldn't be at the school. That was the big issue for us really," he explained.
Stephenson explained that the lab books were supposed to be in a batch of five that was randomly selected by the system and sent to CXC so that markers could get an idea of what was done by the students and graded by the teacher.
"There seemed to be a duplication which would not normally be the case. I don't know what's the explanation for that," said Stephenson.
The OEC did not get a chance to speak with the physics teacher in question as Stephenson said "he was unwilling to speak".
Stephenson also disclosed that the window of appeal was still open.
"The state of affairs is that the grades will be withheld pending the outcome of the investigation and the process of appeal," said the local registrar.
Reid said he was awaiting the ruling to be handed down by CXC and, as such, would not want to say anything further to prejudice the case. He also promised to make a public statement after the ruling is delivered.
Meanwhile, when contacted last week, both the minister of education and the permanent secretary in the education ministry were unaware of the investigation.
Stephenson said the OEC, an agency of the education ministry, usually handles these situations directly.
"The OEC has always acted as a very independent organisation, even though it is an agency of the ministry," he said.
However, Elaine Foster Allen, permanent secretary in the education ministry, said that should not have been the case.
"The OEC must have slipped up on this particular matter because, as a matter of course, we would have expected a report without having to be told by a media house that there is a problem," said Foster Allen.
On Friday, Foster Allen told The Sunday Gleaner that she requested and received a report on the matter and was perusing it.
"I haven't had the opportunity to speak with anyone as yet. We got the report yesterday and I am going through it. There are some issues that we would need to talk to the OEC about regarding the findings because I am not seeing a response from CXC in regards to actions they are taking, if any," she said.
Dr Didacus Jules, chief executive officer of the CXC, also told The Sunday Gleaner that the matter was "under active consideration" and assured that due process was being observed.
"Once a decision has been made, it will be communicated to the Ministry of Education and to the Overseas Exams Commission," said Jules.