The CXC Tragedy: One Year On

September 22 marks one year since the release of the Caribbean Examination Council’s 2020 CSEC and CAPE examination results, and the start of a struggle to secure the best interests of, and fair and accurate grades for, our region’s students. It was our earnest hope that 12 months on, we could report that all issues have been resolved and that the CXC is more fit-for-purpose today. Regrettably, that is not the case.

Many students remain disadvantaged by the erroneous 2020 results, due to an inadequate review process which yielded a mere 1% upward grade adjustments. Lacklustre though the review process was, we recognise that it would not have happened, nor would an Independent Review Team have been empanelled had it not been for the strident advocacy of organic groups of parents and students which coalesced into the Caribbean Coalition for Exam Redress.

Nonetheless, many students missed application deadlines last year due to late and erroneous results, others lost scholarships and, in a few instances, university placements. The crisis of 2020 therefore had a profound, lasting and material impact upon this region’s students, and indeed our region’s future.

But instead of reflecting upon the grievous errors of 2020 and adapting concomitantly, the CXC, aided by the regional educational apparatus, failed to prioritise student welfare and the principles of fairness in respect of the administration of the 2021 examinations. As a result, the Council continued with a business-as-usual approach offering their full suite of examinations, with a few inadequate concessions masquerading as gracious mercies, and with which 75% of the student population was wholly dissatisfied as evidenced by the CCER’s Student Satisfaction Survey. In several subject areas, questions appeared on examination papers that were not included in the statement of the broad topics. Equally, we are told of many instances where either questions or instructions were illogically and inaccurately constructed. We have yet to see how these challenges affected our students.

Perhaps most deleterious of all, the delay of the exam period has resulted in an extended delay of the deadline to release this year’s results, as CXC’s decision to administer all papers returns to haunt their ability to dispatch grades. On every occasion since the arrangements for this year’s exams were settled, the CXC solemnly pledged that the results would be released between the last week in September and the first week of October. Students relied upon this promise and asked their universities to hold their conditional acceptances well past the usual time until the promised date. However, in a curt statement released last week, the Council sought to ‘remind’ stakeholders that results will be issued by mid-October, without an acknowledgement that this is a fundamental breach of its commitment and will therefore have serious consequences for those students who were only able to secure extensions from universities up to the first week of October.

Perhaps the only thing worse than the arrangements for this and last year’s examinations has been the appalling contempt for students, parents and teachers as education stakeholders, continually manifested in abrasive press releases and brusque engagements.

Little wonder then that the students of the region have little confidence in CXC’s ability to administer examinations and award grades. The Caribbean Coalition for Exam Redress joins with the students of the region and reiterates our call for the empanelling of an independent Commission of Inquiry to investigate the operations of the CXC and recommend measures for its complete overhaul to make it fit for purpose. Unless and until the issues giving rise to the erroneous results are addressed and remedied, the CXC ought not be allowed to continue to conduct examinations, a function for which they appear incapable as presently constituted. The journey has been long, but we shall not weary of advocating for the best interests of our region’s students.

  • Paula-Anne Moore is the Coordinator and Chief Spokesperson of the Caribbean Coalition for Exam Redress (CCER), while Khaleel Kothdiwala is the Lead Student Advocate at the CCER.
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