Setting the CXC Record Straight – Part One
The Caribbean Coalition for Exam Redress, of which the Group of Concerned Parents of Barbados is a leading member, notes with concern recent opinion editorials written by fixtures of the regional educational ecosystem, which leapt to the defence of the Caribbean Examinations Council and may have served to confuse the general public. We regret the misrepresentation of our position in these opinion pieces and attempt here to clarify our position.
The Coalition, as the representative group predominantly of parents and students but also including teachers and school administrators in our umbrella group, is passionately committed to the integrity of examinations. We recognise that the leading professionals in education assessment internationally identify three pillars on which exam integrity is founded: reliability, validity and fairness. Our educational consultant, the Harvard and Howard-educated Barbadian Dr. Michael Clarke, always reminds us that a cornerstone of the fairness pillar is holding students harmless.
The Coalition in all public commentary and private communication has consistently reiterated that exam integrity can only exist when all three pillars are respected, including that of fairness, and not simply validity alone.
Cognisant of this reality which has been accounted for internationally, we deeply regret that too many in our own education system remain too firmly wedded to the traditional way of doing things, despite the unprecedented context in which we operate, occasioned by the once-in-a-century pandemic, for which none of us have a guidebook but for which many jurisdictions across the globe have exercised adaptive strategic vision in meeting the moment by adjusting their examinations to reflect the vagaries of the present moment.
Cambridge, the US College Board, the International Baccalaureate programme, Irish State Examinations Commission and countless others planned early, having learnt from 2020. Cambridge introduced a system of school assessments with controls to minimise subjectivity and bias and maximise consistency of grades. As far afield as Hong Kong, the examining body, recognising the impact of the pandemic on learning time, modified their exam structure, introducing optional questions and/or reducing the number of questions to be attempted (as recommended by our allied teacher advocate, Ms. Mary-Ann Redman, BSTU President in September 2020). None of these are perfect solutions, but neither is this crisis environment and so, these examining boards have prioritised the physical, mental and academic health of their students.
The reasons which underlie the institutional inertia and unwillingness to adapt on the part of our education system, juxtaposed against our international colleagues, is perhaps a point worthy of further examination by our post-graduate students in the disciplines of Sociology, Public Policy and Government & Politics.
The learned defenders of the CXC also posit the supposedly lower international perception which will result from any attempt to creatively adapt our exam structure. We find this a peculiar claim given the realities outlined just above evidencing those other jurisdictions globally have made similar adjustments. At present, our region is more an outlier as a result of our unresponsiveness to the incredible strain placed on teachers and students. We are equally perplexed by the point that any modification would jeopardise year-to-year comparison of CXC certificates.
Apart from the fact that the only way to equitably compare this year with any another is to adjust commensurate with this year’s peculiarities, the conduct of CXC itself in recent years gives lie to the notion of jeopardised comparison. Some years ago, when CXC removed optional questions from their long paper, the students who took exams after were clearly being assessed on different grounds than their predecessors who could choose which questions to answer. Moreover, when CXC decided to remove the Paper 2 last year, the more ‘academically rigorous’ paper which best examines the understanding of candidates, did they not consider that that could jeopardise the comparability? On what basis is the Paper 1 so much more sacrosanct than the Paper 2?
We will conclude by assessing the claims made in respect of ‘significant concessions‘ and the practicality of deferrals and reflect on the future of assessment in the Caribbean.
- Ms. Paula-Anne Moore,
Spokesperson, Group of Concerned Parents of Barbados
Coordinator/Chief Spokesperson, Caribbean Coalition for Exam Redress
- Mr. Khaleel Kothdiwala,
Student Liaison, The Group of Concerned Parents of Barbados
Lead Student Advocate, Caribbean Coalition for Exam Redress