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Teachers at the centre of corruption blame COVID, Internet penetration

Published:Tuesday | April 27, 2021 | 1:41 AMTameka Gordon/Senior Gleaner Writer
Linvern Wright, principal of William Knibb Memorial High and president of the Jamaica Association of Principals of Secondary Schools.

Corruption in Jamaica seemed the order of the day last week and in a Sunday Gleaner expose, Tameka Gordon got teachers to admit that in a bid to stop the loss of its students because COVID-19 has impacted their ability to do School-Based Assessments well, have been doing the work themselves. The revelation is startling but shows just how much the country has been affected by this pandemic and that maybe everybody has a price.

Published April 25, 2021

SBA FIX

Teachers crafting CSEC submissions for students to earn better passes

WITH THEIR own reputations – and that of their schools – on the line, many teachers have been making significant adjustments to school-based assessments (SBA) for Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) candidates to ensure good pass rates and a suitable school ranking when the dust settles.

The SBA is the coursework component of examinations administered by the Caribbean Examinations Council, with the exception of French, human and social biology, Portuguese and Spanish.

The teachers, who spoke with The Sunday Gleaner on condition of anonymity, say that with the poor quality of work submitted by the students – many of whom have been seriously affected by connectivity issues in the remote learning arrangement in place for more than a year now – they have no other option but to do the work themselves.

A St Catherine-based teacher noted that “fixing up the SBAs for students is not just a COVID-19 thing” as historically, her school gets the low-performing students from t he primary school exit examination.

She lamented that over the years, the performance of students on SBAs has got worse, and now with the current global pandemic cutting off the access of some students to continue their exam preparation and work on their SBAs, she and many of her colleagues now have to be “basically doing the whole SBA for the students”.

“If we are to send in the work that the students give us, many of them would fail,” she said.

A Clarendon-based grade coordinator and senior teacher told The Sunday Gleaner: “My co-workers who are marking SBAs are the ones doing most of it. You give deadlines, [then] you don’t see the students. You have to make up a grade and if or when they turn up, you fix it to match what you had put. These are the things that teachers have to be doing.”

“Most of the times we have to do the SBAs for them. They are lazy and we have to be begging and calling them, pulling out all the stops just to try to help them,” chimed in a male teacher at a high school deemed low-performing.

“I gave my students a deadline that has passed more than two days now and I am still waiting. Not one group has submitted their work,” the business education teacher said.

“They just don’t care. COVID19 made it worse, but that was the general attitude of the students from before,” he said, also pointing out that the school usually receives low performers exiting primary school.

The educators believe that the Ministry of Education does not seem cognisant of the true state of the education sector concerning student performance and attendance.

“These are the struggles that the SBA teachers have to be dealing with. The struggle is real and the ministry behaves like it doesn’t understand the situation. This is what we are going through,” the grade coordinator lamented.

“We leave the drop boxes with the security at the gate of the school for them to drop off their SBAs. You sit and wait until night, waiting to see if any student will come because, in the long run, it’s you – the teacher – that is going to look bad,” she said. “And the Ministry of Education does not understand at all what we are going through.”

The matter seems to also extend to student attendance in online classes.

“They need to get field officers and go on the ground and get a true reflection of what is really happening. You can’t just sit in your office and take numbers because that is not a true reflection of what is happening,” the teachers agreed, referencing the daily attendance data collected by the ministry.

Questions sent by The Sunday Gleaner to the education ministry remained unanswered up to press time.