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Cabinet huddles as CXC stands firm on July

Published:Friday | May 15, 2020 | 12:30 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer
Wayne Wesley
Wayne Wesley

The Jamaican Government is still mulling over its options in the face of insistence by the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) that it will press ahead with external exams in July despite resistance by several regional states.

Cabinet has not yet decided on a position for the sitting of the 2020 Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) and the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE), stand-in Education Minister Karl Samuda told The Gleaner yesterday.

Discussions are still being held with teachers and relevant stakeholders, he said.

Earlier this week, Samuda said that Jamaica could not commit to holding exams as the “challenges are much greater” than in smaller Caribbean states.

Approximately 120,000 students across the region are registered to sit CSEC and another 30,000, CAPE. Jamaica, Barbados, and Trinidad and Tobago, which have expressed some reservations, represent at least three-quarters of the candidates.

The regional examinations will be held in accordance with national health protocols on social distancing, sanitisation, and the wearing of masks.

“The decision from CARICOM is clear. There is a date for the examinations now, and this is not a time to create any level of uncertainty with the students or candidates who are being prepared,” CXC Registrar Dr Wayne Wesley told a media briefing on Thursday.

But Gabriel Martin, a CSEC student at Holy Childhood High School, is urging the Government to include candidates in the decision making.

“The anxiety that we are feeling is very great, and we just want a decision to be made soon and one that will benefit us and not jeopardise our future,” she told The Gleaner yesterday.

Wesley said that countries have “sovereign authority” to determine their own course of action and indicated that further bilateral discussions could be explored.

CXC took a policy decision in March to modify the examination process that would yield valid grades and minimise the disruption in the education system caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The physical plants of schools have been shuttered for two months.

Final grades will be awarded based on the moderated School Based Assessment (SBAs), a multiple-choice paper, and, where applicable, additional assessment components.

The council is still making preparations for the administration of oral examinations, which could possibly be done remotely.

The common paper will be administered via an e-testing modality. Where there are infrastructure challenges, candidates will be allowed to sit paper-based examinations.

Wesley noted that results would be available in the first week of September even if the majority of territories choose the paper-modality option. Of note, in any one territory, both modalities can be utilised.

The modified approach is only for the COVID-19 period as CXC will return to its usual mode of testing in January.

For the January sitting, only 13 of the 33 CSEC subjects, including mathematics, English, and information technology, are offered.