Erica Virtue, Senior Gleaner Writer
A University of the West Indies (UWI) graduate, who holds degrees in Literature and Law, is arguing that Jamaican students are suffering from too much testing - a problem he believes is fuelling cheating and causing a lack of passion for learning.
Speaking at a Gleaner Editors' Forum last week, Mark-Paul Cowan - one of four graduates of the UWI who faced reporters and editors - said he was not surprised at the recent reports of cheating in external examinations at some secondary schools, as educational institutions were too focused on test results.
"We need to move away from this high-stakes testing situation, which I believe is the main reasons for what happened at Jamaica College with the cheating.
"Too much is attached to examinations. You cram for this one thing and the next day it's all gone," posited Cowan.
In mid-October, The Sunday Gleaner reported that the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) disqualified several students from Jamaica College over concerns about the integrity of the school-based assessments (SBA).
Two other secondary schools are also under probe for alleged SBA tampering.
"We need to develop a culture of learning at different levels, where reading and interaction are part of the process. That's the way forward, and it cannot be that your whole life is hinged on whether you get a grade one or grade two.
"It's really, really ridiculous, and too much is attached to it, and that is why it leads to unscrupulous activities," stated Cowan, who is a tutor at the UWI.
He noted that employment opportunities are limited, and argued that students have to market themselves to stand out among job-seekers.
According to Cowan, excessive testing is causing a lack of passion for learning among some students.
He suggested that with many students not taking courses seriously, and only studying to pass semester examinations, borderline students are unable to secure recommendations, including from lecturers who were uncomfortable recommending them.
"You have to distinguish yourself so that you can be recommended highly by whomever you have established ties with.
"If you go through a course and you are borderline failure, which company is going to want to hire you? Where are you going to get your recommendation from? You must take the course and learning seriously," argued Cowan.
Basil Jones Jr, another participant at The Gleaner's Editors' Forum, argued that the excessive testing was one reason for the lack of "an education", which was among the causes of the poor work ethics of some Jamaicans.
According to Jones, there is a woeful lacking of preparing students for the workforce.
The amount of testing of Jamaican students has been questioned for years, with some experts saying the Grade Six Achievement Test administered at the end of primary years is too difficult.
Testing is almost continuous throughout the primary years.
In secondary schools, there are monthly and six-weekly tests, as well as end-of-unit and end-of-semester tests, while at the tertiary level semesters tests are mandatory.