Over 11,000 regional students received ungraded at CSEC but less than 1% applied for reviews

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By Lakhram Bhagirat

In 20 countries in the Caribbean, a total of 11,578 students who sat the 2020 Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examinations received ungraded in one or more subject area, according to the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) Registrar, Dr Wayne Wesley.

Dr Wesley made the revelation during a press conference on Sunday to update the regional media and stakeholders on the findings of the Independent Review Team convened by CXC Chairman Professor Sir Hilary Beckles.

The Independent Review Team, convened by the Chairman, was tasked with the review of the modified approach for the administration of the 2020 Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations (CAPE) and CSEC exams. It was upon regional concerns from students that the Council instructed a team to review the moderation process applied to the School-Based Assessments (SBAs) and the grading process for the exams, among other related matters.

The Registrar, in providing comparative figures for the past three years, said that the trends for reviews and queries showed that they have been well within the estimated area.

He noted for CAPE, 2173 (0.02 per cent) persons sought reviews in 2018, in 2019 that number dropped to 1073 (0.88 per cent) for 2020 it increased to 2353 (1.97 per cent).

Meanwhile for queries, in 2018 CXC received 71 (0.001 per cent), 2019 that number decreased to 36 (0.03 per cent) and for this year it rose to 659, representing 0.55 per cent of the total students that sat the exams.

For CSEC this year, the Examinations Council received 2550 (0.46 per cent) requests for reviews and would have received 720 (0.13 per cent) and 813 for 2019 and 2018 respectively. The number of CSEC queries also increased from 705 (0.13 per cent) in 2019 to 1572 (0.28 per cent) in 2020.

Dr Wesley told reporters that at CAPE, some 4961 students received “absent” for 2020, signalling a decrease from 6245 in 2019. Additionally, 2296 students also received ungraded at the 2020 exams. In 2019, that number stood at 757.

What was staggering also was the number – 11,578 – of students who received ungraded at the 2020 CSEC exams as opposed to 8062 in 2019. Also, 30,108 students were recorded as “absent”.

“Those are being processed. I must say that right across the region – would not be able to say territory by territory – we have had instances of ungraded have been reported. It is a regional situation. It is really less than one per cent of the overall persons affected,” he assured.

Extended review, deadline, slashed fees

Initially, persons had until October 23 to submit their requests for reviews to CXC but on Sunday, the Registrar informed that the deadline has now been extended to November 6 to facilitate persons.

“We will reduce the fees associated with request for review by 50 per cent and now it will be US$15 and those persons who already paid for their review, the difference will be refunded,” he explained.

The review process, according to Dr Wesley, will include remarking of the review script as well as the School-Based Assessment. He noted that if, after the process is completed, the grade remains the same then the candidate will be advised as such adding that if the grade changes and becomes higher then the same process is applied but it would also include a full refund of the review fees.

Additionally, CXC has taken the decision to set aside its policy of awarding a decreased grade after the review process. However, that will only apply to the 2020 examinations.

“Additional systems will be put in place to ensure that queries are dispatched with efficiently and resolved in the shortest possible time and this week that capacity will be put in place to ensure that candidates can get an almost immediate response to the query that they have raised. In fact, the backlog (of reviews and queries) shall be cleared this week. The provision will be put in place by the end of this week for persons to interact directly with the Caribbean Examinations Council online for a review request, thus shortening the time between the request for review and the time for results,” Dr Wesley informed.

Weight of papers

For the 2020 examinations, CXC changed its format from Papers 1 and 2 coupled with SBAs owing to the global coronavirus pandemic. This somewhat threw students off balance and it was a move that the local Education Ministry lashed out at following the dissatisfaction with the results.

In an effort to clarify the way CXC conducts grading of the papers, Dr Wesley said that the examinations body does not focus on the papers rather it marks profiles. He, however, failed to explain the weighing of profiles to reporters despite being asked to do so repeatedly.

“It is important to understand that CXC grades on profile and not on paper. So that the weighting of a paper does not necessarily impact on the weight of a profile grade. The removal of Paper 2 would not have affected the weighting of the profiles since we do not grade on paper. And each paper would have the requisite contributions to the profiles that are used to arrive at the final grade so the composite of the profiles would also be used to arrive at the final grade,” he said.

100% moderation of SBAs

One of the critical components of the CSEC and CAPE examinations are the SBAs. The idea of SBAs came about after teachers advocated for the work of their students over the years to be included in the final grade.

Traditionally, CXC would pick sample SBAs for moderation but for the 2020 exams that changed when the body took the decision to conduct a 100 per cent moderation exercise.

That exercise, according to Dr Wesley, saw a variance of 66 per cent in moderator to teacher score. In 2019, from the sample pool, the variance was 63 per cent.

“It is important for us to understand that the internal assessment that is SBA – the grades awarded by teachers within the school systems would not necessarily be the final grade but such grade would be finalised after the moderation process where we ensure that the standards of CXC would be maintained in those SBAs and the grades would reflect those standards,” he said.

Dr Wesley noted that based on the information gathered and lessons leant, CXC would continue on the path of 100 per cent moderation of SBAs so as to maintain the quality of CSEC.

“We will continue with 100 per cent moderation. I think this is our inclination to continue with that going forward to ensure that the standards of CXC would have been upheld…it is still required for teachers to be engaged in the assessment of their students and do so with a standard metric that will show the student’s ability.

“I think our moderation process is just to ensure that what is being said, is what is being done because in that regard we would have reposed a lot of confidence in teacher to grade according to the metric that have been provided in the syllabus. In the moderation process, there have been cases where the teachers and the moderator are on spot. I think this year the 100 per cent moderation allowed us to see in a more complete way, a more comprehensive way what the quality of SBAs being submitted and how those were graded,” the Registrar opined.

Meanwhile, CXC Chair Sir Beckles said it is important to understand that the process of moderation is to assist teachers. It is to have their back and not question their initial judgment. He noted that it is to assist them in their judgment, adding that it is not an easy process to mark in bulks. [Extracted from the Guyana Times]