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Mixed reaction to CXC exam screening

Published:Monday | September 1, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Jermaine Francis, Staff Reporter

One in three high schools across the island is failing to register more than half its grade 11 cohort for mathematics and English Language Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) exams, data from the Ministry of Education has revealed.

Of the 164 secondary schools, 60 did not enter half of their students for English and more than 70 failed to register 50 per cent of the students enrolled at these schools for the exams.

However, even as the practice of screening continues, thousands of those students who are allowed to sit the exams are still unable to pass.

Some 88 schools were unable to get more than 50 per cent of the students who sat mathematics this year to pass. Students at 67 of these schools failed to register more than 50 per cent pass in English language.

It is partly for this reason principal of Spanish Town High School in St Catherine and former Jamaica Teachers' Association's president, Clayton Hall, said schools should desist from preventing some students from doing the exams.

"It is a practice I am averse to. The educator has no right to determine that a student can or can't do a subject. The educators' job is to prepare the students as best as possible for these exams," he stated.

He welcomed Education Minister Ronald Thwaites' position that, come 2016, all students will be required to sit exams for English, mathematics and at least one marketable skill.

The argument has long been that schools are screening students in an attempt to enhance their percentage passes as this would lift their profile.

Thwaites has posited that this will no longer be the case after 2016.

Respect schools' policies

But Heather Murray, head of the Jamaica Association of Principals of Secondary Schools, said schools should not be compelled to register all students for exams simply because they are in grade 11.

"There are cases where schools have their own policies. For example, a case where a student does not complete the school-based assessment component of the exam, should that student be allowed to register for the exam still? Or a case where a child is reading way below his or her grade level, would it make sense to send that child into the English exam?" Murray posited.

She said what would be ideal is a set of guidelines from the ministry level that would give a clear indication as to when a child should be allowed or not allowed to sit the CXC exams.