The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a serious but understandable disruption in the education system, by leading to the temporary closure of learning institutions worldwide.
This has affected the vast majority of the student population, and it is thus, with great worry, that we write this article, hoping to convey our concerns on this issue.
Although we may not be able to speak for the international student body, we do wish to shed light on the dilemmas currently being faced by students of the Caribbean who are writing the upcoming CAPE and CSEC examinations (Form 5s and Form 6s).
Recently, the number of COVID-19 patients has skyrocketed—a scenario which was quite unanticipated.
Prior to said surge in cases, the country had undergone a nationwide lockdown until our leaders saw it viable to “reopen” the nation. The curve had plateaued and there was hence a gradual reopening with such measures including: revoking the essential workers status, removing isolation protocol and scheduling schools to officially open on September 1.
After the recent drastic increase in COVID-19 cases, however, the Government decided to push back the reopening of schools. It was ordered that all teaching institutions remain closed until December 31.
Students writing the upcoming CAPE and CSEC examinations are troubled by the mere thought of our quickly approaching exams for many reasons that have resulted from this pandemic, as discussed below.
Firstly, online classes ordered by the Government to be implemented by schools as an alternate form of teaching were labelled as “voluntary” on the part of the teachers.
Consequently, some classes are not being taught as teachers are not obligated to administer said online classes.
Online teaching also brought to light the fact that many teachers are not tech-savvy. This issue, which is not the fault of students, may have significant repercussions such as the inability to complete the school curriculum, leading to insufficient preparation time for exam-writing students and critical strikes to the students’ confidence.
After conducting several interviews amongst our peers, we can state with confidence that most students are indeed experiencing said distresses.
We humbly suggest that a possible solution to counteract these problems would be by making the execution of these online classes officially mandatory, as well as by possibly conducting courses for teachers, in order to familiarise them with the digital interfaces to be used to teach their students.
Another contributing factor to our dilemma under these circumstances, is the unavailability of technological assets to some students.
Due to the closure of schools, an online method of teaching has been implemented by most schools, whereby classes are operated digitally, with the use of modern day technology. This has resulted in technology being an indispensable tool, without which, students are unable to obtain any kind of schooling or classes.
This method has not catered, however, for some students who may not be able to afford such “luxuries”, thereby leaving them significantly disadvantaged, especially with regard to preparing for the upcoming CSEC and CAPE examinations.
Additionally, previously offered textbooks supplied by schools are no longer being distributed, also negatively impacting the educational well-being of several students, who may be writing these upcoming examinations.
It is our humble belief that this situation can be alleviated if the government provides financial assistance to those who cannot afford these “luxuries” and are hence unable to attend these crucial classes.
Additionally, we as students are faced with the inevitable anxiety and stress associated with exams such as CAPE and CSEC which have the potential to, for want of a better phrase, make or break our futures.
Due to the uncertainty being faced with regards to our educational well-being, there has been an increase in these responses.
The cumulative pressures of high expectations, and moreover, fear of failure, in an even more high pressure environment, influenced by the shortened time frame to complete our exam syllabus, the lack of teaching on the parts of some teachers, and even the lack of resources (to be used for our new standard of online learning), leaves a rational concern and fear in the hearts of students.
These current circumstances have led to the overall deterioration of students’ mental health due to excessive stress and frustration.
We would like to provide our humble suggestions of ways to alleviate the stress and unease being faced by our students. Such suggestions include:
• Pushing back our CSEC and CAPE examinations by a negotiable month
• Minimising the exam scope to Paper Ones only
• Lessening the content of the school-based assessments (SBAs)
We see these as appropriate and viable solutions due to the current dilemmas being faced by students as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.
We students request that our superiors see this situation from the eyes of our disadvantaged student population.
We hope that those in authority acknowledge and address some of our concerns, as well as take into consideration our possible solutions during this unfavorable period for all.