UNICEF urges CXC to make adjustments to exam plans

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See full statement from UNICEF

 

UNICEF is concerned over the decision of the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) to maintain the upcoming Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) and the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) for students as currently designed.

UNICEF is calling on CXC and the Ministers of Education to make adjustments to the content and administration of these exams, in line with recommendations provided by the Caribbean Union of Teachers (CUT) to ensure that the region’s school students are not further disadvantaged.

We do recognize the efforts already made by the CXC in reducing certain requirements for these examinations and making concessions such as (i) providing the topics for the long answer paper (Paper 2) five weeks prior to the commencement of the exams, (ii) reducing requirements for the SBAs and extending submission dates for some subjects and (iii) facilitating deferments to 2022 if students meet specific criteria, (iv) the currently discussed further postponement of the examination date. However, there are still a number of issues which require more substantial changes and flexibility.

For example, no change has been made on the multiple-choice paper (Paper 1) which will still cover the entire syllabus, and no clear structure was shared as to how those students who meet deferral requirements and choose to defer will be supported to sit the exams at a later date in 2022.

As we are aware, the current pandemic context has further exacerbated the gaps in preparedness amongst the most disadvantaged students. This year, there is a higher risk of those students in vulnerable conditions never sitting the exams.

This could seriously affect not only their further education at higher secondary or tertiary levels, but their future. As these high stakes exams are scheduled to proceed amidst a significant disruption to schooling at varying degrees across the Caribbean since early 2020, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and continued partial or full school closures, the heightened risk of being  further left behind, in particular students from lower income households, who continue to experience major challenges in accessing online learning is an important consideration. In addition, natural disasters such as the recent eruption of the La Soufrière volcano in St- Vincent have had an additional negative impact on the learning of thousands of students.

Teachers, parents and students themselves repeatedly expressed their worries about the low levels of preparedness, as the pandemic and the related impact on education prevented students from attaining learning outcomes as desired.  If the exams were to be implemented as decided, our main concern is the low level of preparedness (academically and psychologically) of many of the thousands of 16–18-year-old students across the region to sit the exams.[1] In this context, requiring students to sit an examination that includes components that cover an entire two-year course of study would risks being ineffective.

Given these circumstances, UNICEF is calling for an equitable approach to these critical examinations, which takes into account the unequal access to learning due to the digital divide, the reduced curriculum coverage, and the high psycho-emotional stress, among other consequences of the prolonged school closure due to the pandemic.

 

UNICEF is concerned over the decision of the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) to maintain the upcoming Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) and the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) for students as currently designed.

UNICEF is calling on CXC and the Ministers of Education to make adjustments to the content and administration of these exams, in line with recommendations provided by the Caribbean Union of Teachers (CUT) to ensure that the region’s school students are not further disadvantaged.

We do recognize the efforts already made by the CXC in reducing certain requirements for these examinations and making concessions such as (i) providing the topics for the long answer paper (Paper 2) five weeks prior to the commencement of the exams, (ii) reducing requirements for the SBAs and extending submission dates for some subjects and (iii) facilitating deferments to 2022 if students meet specific criteria, (iv) the currently discussed further postponement of the examination date. However, there are still a number of issues which require more substantial changes and flexibility.

For example, no change has been made on the multiple-choice paper (Paper 1) which will still cover the entire syllabus, and no clear structure was shared as to how those students who meet deferral requirements and choose to defer will be supported to sit the exams at a later date in 2022.

As we are aware, the current pandemic context has further exacerbated the gaps in preparedness amongst the most disadvantaged students. This year, there is a higher risk of those students in vulnerable conditions never sitting the exams.

This could seriously affect not only their further education at higher secondary or tertiary levels, but their future. As these high stakes exams are scheduled to proceed amidst a significant disruption to schooling at varying degrees across the Caribbean since early 2020, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and continued partial or full school closures, the heightened risk of being  further left behind, in particular students from lower income households, who continue to experience major challenges in accessing online learning is an important consideration. In addition, natural disasters such as the recent eruption of the La Soufrière volcano in St- Vincent have had an additional negative impact on the learning of thousands of students.

Teachers, parents and students themselves repeatedly expressed their worries about the low levels of preparedness, as the pandemic and the related impact on education prevented students from attaining learning outcomes as desired.  If the exams were to be implemented as decided, our main concern is the low level of preparedness (academically and psychologically) of many of the thousands of 16–18-year-old students across the region to sit the exams.[1] In this context, requiring students to sit an examination that includes components that cover an entire two-year course of study would risks being ineffective.

Given these circumstances, UNICEF is calling for an equitable approach to these critical examinations, which takes into account the unequal access to learning due to the digital divide, the reduced curriculum coverage, and the high psycho-emotional stress, among other consequences of the prolonged school closure due to the pandemic.