‘The fish rots from the head

Paula-Anne Moore (Ms) Parent Advocate Spokesperson/Coordinator The Group of Concerned Parents, Barbados The Regional Coalition for CXC Exam Redress

Paula-Anne Moore (Ms); Parent Advocate Spokesperson/Coordinator
The Group of Concerned Parents, Barbados
The Regional Coalition for CXC Exam Redress

The COVID-19 Pandemic has served to reveal pre-existing inequities and challenges within our societies. It has ripped the scab off of the wound that is our societal ills.

Similarly, the 2020 CXC Exam Fiasco  from September 2020′, has revealed to the entire region what teachers and principals have been combating for years: evidence of CXC’s inadequate core values, governance, performance targets, technical competence, quality assurance, communications, stakeholder engagement and accountability.

There have been flawed grades which have seen entire classes of students disadvantaged (Communication Studies, 2018 and thereafter, Caribbean Studies, 2020), intransigence and arrogance, poor and even non-responsive communications. The grade review process prior to 2020 appeared to penalise students who asked for grade reviews: some ended up with even worse grades on review, with no recourse! The review process was also recently reducedto a mere re-addition of computer generated scores – for the same fee.

These pre-existing challenges were multiplied by thousands of children in 2020, their previously  largely hidden awfulness revealed to us all.

7 months later, CXC has refused to admit that their 2020 methodology was fatally flawed, that thousands of candidates were adversely affected by grade compression, as documented in their own RT (Independent Review Team (IRT) Report of October 2020. CXC, 7 months later, has not rectified the grades of 98% of approx 10,000 students who requested grade reviews. This cruelty has inflicted immeasurable mental and physical trauma and financial harm on these students, and delayed their future plans, further compounding their  pandemic stress.

2021 risks repeating the same mistakes and new ones, as CXC’s leadership is attempting to ignore 2020 and turn the page to ‘business as usual’ without properly addressing the 2020 Exam issues and what they reveal about CXC’s  administration deficiencies and ethics: care and concern for the region’s children.

Unlike comparable international exam bodies, (Cambridge, International Baccalaureate, US College Board, CXC has refused to adapt its examination process adequately and significantly, to take into account the impact of the pandemic on education over the past year.  Students  and teachers are even more disadvantaged in 2021 compared  to 2020, and 2021 has Covid19 infection rates even higher than in 2020 in many countries, with uncertain future infection rates and without alternative 2021 exam plans provided by CXC.

Any changes CXC has made to the 2021 Exam structure, apparently rubber-stamped by CARICOM, are cosmetic, announced too late and, indeed ‘too little too late’. Alternatives proposed by education stakeholders in 2020 have been ignored.

And, to add insult to injury: After the 2020 Debacle and during pandemic-related economic hardship for many: CXC has even increased the 2021 exam registration fees !!

There are short term and long term ramification to CXC leadership’s  handling of the 2020 and 2021 Exams, its continued inward focus on only what is in its corporate interests, and its refusal to be responsive to the public, who pays its bills.

Due to the significant lost of public trust and confidence, and the grave (irredeemable?) damage to CXC’s and therefore CARICOM’s reputation and brand, as a centre of excellence and modern best practice, long-term ramifications abound, which should concern us all :

1) ‘Brain flight’ the students most disadvantaged in 2020 – many of them are disenchanted with callousness of our governments and institutions who didn’t look after them, and plan to leave the region if/when they can. Other look on, with similar plans.

2) Teacher flight -Our teachers are frustrated, have been for years, and the best are leaving to teach elsewhere: Bermuda Cayman Is,Turks & Caicos, BVI

Thus, the sunk cost spent to train and educate teachers and students, and therefore some of our best human capital, may be lost.

3) Loss of CARICOM’s strategic competitiveness and growth via attracting new residents: who would want to move here with children and enrol them in an educational system with this track record?

4) Loss of CXC’s revenue as more and more parents and students seek alternatives:

# Belize’s CSEC enrollment is down 50% vs 2020 and prior years. School  assessments are being used for university applications in lieu of CXCs.

# Guyana – a significant percentage of their top academic performers have left their free Government School and are paying private institutions to do Cambridge, such was their harm and disgust due to the 2020 CXC Results Fiasco.

5) Loss of regional public respect and confidence in the quality of CXC, and thus the loss of its prestige.

6) Continued Damage to future candidates.

7) Potential loss of CXC’s international accreditation and prestige.

8) Potential future national elections consequences?

We have identified long-term solutions to address CXC’s performance, inclusive of an independent audit and oversight body,in a previous article.

Our Proposed Short-term solutions for CXC and CARICOM, in the best interests of our region’s children, re the 2021 Exams:

  • Exam structure In order of preference:

a) SBA Only – less health risk/exposure than in person exams

b) Paper 2

c) Paper 2 only and SBA only

  • If in-person exams are insisted upon, issue Paper 2 topics immediately and/or delay the deferral deadline until*after* the Paper 2 topics are released
  • The release date of the exam results should be in August, so students have a reasonable time to meet 2021 university entrance deadlines.
  • CAPE exams in Jan 2022 as promised
  • Specific details on the logistical plans to house and teach students who defer exams til 2022
  • Advance transparency re 2021 grading methodology
  • Evidence to assure and ensure that the 2020 Exam Results Fiasco isnt repeated

Resolve the 2020 CXC Exam ResultsFiasco!!

We reiterate our original Demands:

  • Contrition and acknowledgement of responsibility for the crisis by CXC and CARICOM
  • Accountability and transparency re the 2020 grading methodology, inclusive of providing 2020 scripts to prove the veracity of grades issued.
  • Fix the erroneous 2020 Grades
  • Provide grades for the 2020 SBAs so students can determine if they need to redo the SBAs for 2021 Assessments.. Currently CXC refuses to provide any detailed evidence of 2020 or 2021 grading methodology or 2020 student scripts.

The pursuit of justice should not be solely focused on slavery reparations. Our children TODAY  deserve fairness and justice too!!

We are proud of the reputation that CXC has developed over the decades; and the calibre of the regional hardworking professionals there.

However, ‘the fish rots from head’.

CXC is not well.

CARICOM’s relationship with CXC appears dysfunctional.

If neither CXC nor CARICOM is well, neither can our region be.

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