National education is the ‘hot topic’ in the public domain once again. As it should be.
Once again, yet another year, disadvantaged children and their parents feel unheard by and disillusioned with the public education system.
Once again there are entire forms of students, from several schools nationally (and regionally) who have received clearly flawed ungraded and/or flawed preliminary grades from CXC, due to no fault of their own, but due to challenges in the education system. This was reported as far back as 2015, but the scale seems to be growing.
Many of these children have been traumatised as a result, despite doing their best within the pandemic challenges, and have had their academic plans and/or life goals upended due to clearly *systemic unresolved challenges to CXC grading*, with the SBA moderation for Biology and Chemistry apparently a significant factor this year. Last year, it was the e-testing rollout, ambitiously executed before adequate IT capacity was in place.
A month after CXC’s 2023 results were released, most of these problematic grades remain, and are further evidence of continued systemic problems within CXC and outside of CXC governing the grade quality assurance and exam administrative processes.
To add insult to injury, parents are being asked again to pay for individual grade reviews, for their child to have a chance for an improved grade, when the systemic challenges are the likely culprit for the vast majority of these problematic grades.
Some parents will be unable to afford the grade review fee, so their child will be stuck with a flawed grade.
This is the height of unfairness.
In any event, the majority of the grades, based on painful collective experience, will likely return unchanged after the grade review.
These widespread challenges have manifested far too often for the past five consecutive academic years including the great CARICOM-wide 2020 CXC Grading Fiasco. Countless Barbadian and CARICOM children are becoming discouraged and demoralised as a result. The Russian Roulette of CXC Exams continues.
When will more parents and other education stakeholders put their collective feet down and insist enough is enough, and demand transformative, lasting change led by our national and CARICOM governments?! This change must include real two-way engagement and communication with parents and students in this regard as valued stakeholders?
Will we wait until these CXC challenges manifest on the world stage (which is already happening) to the extent that we are embarrassed (even more) globally?
CXC and our wider education governance system are home grown yes, and we are proud of past achievements, but that does not exclude them from public accountability, transparency and constructive criticism. *Our children are entitled to the same calibre of exam testing international best practice, especially fairness, that their global peers enjoy.*
Protection of CXC’s international reputation and credibility should not equate to ignoring long standing concerns and allowing injustice to our children to be perpetrated, year upon year.
We cannot afford to let our legacy of past education achievements become buried under the mountain of the current status quo of apparently public apathy and impenetrable, labyrinthine, (perhaps by design), governance of CXC.
We expect our governments to advocate for our children. Much may occur ‘behind closed doors’, but the public needs better communication regarding such efforts.
Our children deserve fair and just treatment and look to us adults to ensure it. It is a dereliction of our collective duty that more of us do not insist this occurs.
Within the foregoing context, the last minute major reassignment of and method of communication to the principals and dep principals is even more worrisome.
Is there a connection?
The resultant school upheaval in timetables and general school management, as academic year planning would have to be reworked, and negative impact to their personal lives, and relationships with their colleagues, are obvious results from such sudden massive changes.
We have great empathy for these hard working principals and deputy principals, who, with their colleagues, are often unsung heroes and under-appreciated. To be advised less than 12 hours of such a fundamental change, is not something that should happen in Barbados in 2023.
The same way that 3 Government Ministers, including the Acting PM, demonstrated their leadership and transparency by speaking to the public re the last national power outage, the public, education professionals, students and parents are owed an explanation at Ministerial level as to why these school management reassignments were so executed.
That level of transparency is the hallmark of a thriving 21st century democracy.
The foregoing recent national education events do not inspire public confidence re the implementation of the long awaited national education transformation.
It would be a tragedy if diminished public and parental confidence in our much heralded national education system leads, nearly 60 years after independence and during our own stewardship, leads to the acceleration of education privatisation, and the widening of social chasms that will be its inevitable result.
We parents, and our children, are watching.
The Group of Concerned Parents, Barbados
The Caribbean Coalition for Exam Redress