I appeal to you during this time of widespread unease to reconsider the decision to proceed with examinations in July, 2020. Amid a global pandemic and worldwide lockdown, the expectation that students and teachers must maintain exam standard performance levels is unethical and a disservice to stakeholders, many of whom face future realities almost totally contingent on exam results.
First and foremost, the CXC has disregarded their ethical responsibility concerning the welfare of both students and teachers. As the Caribbean community currently faces multitudes of turmoil, within the immediate dimension of health and physical safety, to the economic implications of this pandemic, it is unreasonable to jeopardise not only the future but also the current well-being of stakeholders by proceeding with exams.
In addition to coping with the immediate anxiety, stress and danger of COVID-19, any pre-existing problems within the home such as domestic abuse, substance abuse and other mental health conditions will be exacerbated in these times. This has already been noted throughout the Caribbean.
Furthermore, the suggestion that implementing the online e-learning platform will suffice to finish the syllabi and prepare students adequately for exams is insensitive and unrealistic.
While teachers and students alike are under pressure to adjust to a totally new form of learning under the added expectation of maintaining exam standards, socio-economic divides will be greatly compounded and reflected in the according results.
This system is implemented under the false assumption that all students and teachers have the resources at their disposal and a home environment conducive to accommodating the demands of online learning and self teaching.
A great disservice has been done to students with overseas conditional university offers which are contingent on exam results, or those about to enter the workforce. As the competition for university and workforce placements occurs on a global scale, CXC candidates are competing with students sitting international qualifications.
To proceed with examinations is distinctly anti-competitive, as exams with every major examination board in the world (including International Baccalaureate, A-Levels, GCSE and International A-Levels) have been cancelled. The candidates who will now be using predicted grades are effectively unconcerned with added academic pressure amid this period, while Caribbean students must preform to exam standards for the same university placements, creating a blatantly uneven playing field to the detriment of the region’s scholars.
Furthermore, the suggestion that students will only complete Paper One (with the exception of many subjects, where students are still expected to sit the full exam—up to four papers, is unfair as this examining board has a policy of never releasing multiple choice past papers.
For subjects such as Literatures in English, this paper is not only new, but completely unseen and to the disregard of every set text studied throughout the year. For subjects such as Literatures in English, students will complete an “unseen paper”, such that no pre-existing knowledge is tested.
With students only granted one sample paper, there is effectively no way to prepare for this exam. The results of this are a completely inaccurate reflection of the student’s knowledge of the syllabus content as well as the capability within the subject.
It is with great distress and anxiety that I appeal to CXC, the Hon. Prime Minister and the Minister of Education to prioritize the well-being of students and teachers in this increasingly difficult time.
The stakes for candidates are extremely high and the reality of international competition means that the decision to proceed with exams while all major exam boards have not is a disservice to Caribbean students.
Mechanisms such as predicted grades must be implemented for ethical purposes. An alternative for CAPE is the use of predicted grades for Unit Two students who have already displayed their capacity to preform in Unit One, and have university deadlines, while the Unit One students may be able to sit exams at an adjusted date.
Please note that this is not written with disregard towards the role of learning during this period. But there is a salient dissonance regarding the impact of “learning” and exam performance on mental health and well-being. It is this pressure which the CXC has carelessly disregarded.
I speak on behalf of aspiring students and hard-working teachers with trust that the most just decision will be made in good faith. The actions that you take during this period of societal distress and trauma reflecting on this examining body for years to come, it is essential to maximise stakeholder welfare.
Student calling for justice