Wed | Oct 4, 2023

Principals wary as CXC sets path to digital exams

Published:Monday | May 22, 2023 | 2:04 AMSashana Small/Staff Reporter
Andrew Simms, principal of Robert Lightbourne High School in St Thomas.
Lynton Weir, principal of Old Harbour High School.

At least two principals are expressing concern over each of their school’s capacity to accommodate students if the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) exams go digital.

In a move the Council said it hoped could assist in stemming the recurring leaks of Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) test papers, CXC on Friday announced that it was aiming to get the region ready for full electronic testing of digitised exams.

While sharing his support for the implementation of digitised exams, Lynton Weir, principal of Old Harbour High in St Catherine, said this would require more resources that a lot of schools do not have.

“Let us take for example at my school, my school is such a large school … it is going to take a lot of resources in terms of purchasing of computers for us to utilise for the online platform,” he said.

Weir told The Gleaner that there are approximately 200 computers at his school, but each year a cohort of about 500 students sit CXC exams.

“Unless it’s going to be a situation wherein we’re going to not just use the computer labs, and CXC now, would now bring in place laptops, so where it is our students would normally do the exams in the examination centre and the different classrooms, CXC would have to provide laptops in all of those different classrooms so that all students can do it at the same time,” he said.

But he argued that if CXC funds the cost of these additional resources then it will result in an increase in examination costs.

“CXC probably would have to be saying to our parents that, look here parents, whatever you use to pay for the cost in terms of processing fee and the subject itself then we’ll have to increase that so that we could get computers into the school,” he said.


Additionally, he said this new format for the exams will also require an increase in the human resource capacity.

“A regular invigilator is not gonna be able to do it, it’s going to be an invigilator who is competent too in computer … in terms of providing that sort of supervision because you’re going to have the child who is going to have that challenge in terms of utilising it,” he said.

Like Weir, Andrew Simms, acting principal of Robert Lightbourne High School in St Thomas, supports CXC’s plans to test the possibility of offering digital exams, but he has similar concerns about the additional equipment that will be needed to facilitate this.

Simms told The Gleaner that he is even more anxious about the impact of this on schools in rural areas where Internet connection is unreliable.

“What will be in place to deal with, for example, in the areas where the Internet is a major issue?” he asked.

According to Dr Wayne Wesley, registrar and chief executive officer of CXC, the shift to digitised exams has been under consideration for 16 years.

Wesley revealed during a digital press conference on Friday that a leak of this year’s mathematics paper 2 occurred in Jamaica. He did not, however, name the individual(s) involved nor divulge information regarding the parish or examination centre where the breach was found.

He said CXC has had the capacity to do all multiple choice examinations electronically since the start of this year. However, it was still working on digitising paper 02 assessments – a process he said he was hopeful would be completed quickly.

But Dannyelle-Jordan Bailey, president of the National Secondary Students’ Council, wants CXC to disclose the sources and supporting documentation of their investigation that revealed that the leak happened in Jamaica.

“The disclosure damages the Caribbean’s advancement and credibility,” she said. Adding that recurring incidents like these decreases students’ ability to compete on the world market.

“We rarely hear reports of leaks when examining other exam boards, such as the College Board Exams, International Baccalaureate … As a result, these examinations and certifications are viewed as more significant as requirements,” she said.

In the meantime, Weir wants more emphasis placed on teaching people to have ethics.

“Just like how we teach mathematics, English and social studies, and science, we should now be teaching values and attitudes, it has to become a way of life for people because we recognise that so many of our people do not have integrity,” he said.