by Clyde Weatherhead
“A mythicized being has simply no existence”
I recall having read the sentence quoted above back in the 1970’s when I, too, was a student of Agriculture at University of the West Indies [UWI] and active in the fight to defend the rights of students in that period of firmament still boiling in our society.
The recent mass complaints by students and their parents concerning the results of the recent COVID-affected CXC CSEC and CAPE exams caused me to reflect once again on this question of the mythicized being.
In this case, there are several – stakeholder, student, parent, examination authority, educator, education ministry.
Having been invited to join a Facebook Group titled “Re-mark And Re-issue CAPE June 2020 results”, I was compelled to try and understand what the concerns of the parents who created it really were.
CXC, the regional examination authority – faced like we all were and are with the intrusion of the COVID pandemic into what we accepted as the rhythm of our lives – felt compelled to make adjustments to the timing and the structure of its examinations in 2020.
There were clearly anxieties about not postponing the examinations into 2021 or beyond. After all, these secondary school exams (like the SEA at primary level) are critical points in the established educational project plan that we call our ‘education system’.
The CXC, with the consensus of the Education Ministries of the Region, decided to hold the secondary school exams in July (despite the fact that students who were at their “peak” of preparation were no longer in schools.
To make this deadline stick, the assessment criteria (elements and the contribution of each to the final grading) had to be adjusted. The usual number of written assessments in the exam room had to be reduced to a single multiple-choice paper for most subjects. This score was to be combined with School Based Assessment marks obtained from either SBA or IA papers previously marked by the schools themselves and used to assess scholarship potential.
On the recent release of the examination results, a tsunami of discontent has rushed across our Caribbean territories even in the midst of varying degrees of COVID spread already plaguing our lands.
I am eternally grateful to the Cipriani Labour College for having afforded we, adjunct faculty, the opportunity for some training in assessment principles and practice during my decade of lecturing with that institution.
So when the issues of weighting of the SBA/IA scores V the written exam scores, of whether there were agreed rubrics and such things, arose in the conversation about these results, I was able to appreciate some of the concerns being expressed.
The latest response of the CXC Registrar inviting dissatisfied students and their parents to seek ‘business-as-usual’ reviews of the troubling grades, because ‘the results stand’ brought the notion of the mythicized being vividly back to my mind.
How dare those defined as ‘students’, parents’ or ‘stakeholders’ challenge the mighty institution of the ‘examination council’.
Once we define these ‘mythicized beings’, those so defined cannot live this being, they can only preserve it, defend its non-living definition.
So, the mythicized infallible examinations council, just like Sparrow’s 60 million French men, just “can’t be wrong”. The results still stand. You other mythicized non-beings, just pay your review fee and hush your mouth, CXC tells students and parents who dare question them.
In all of this, the dehumanized non-beings called ‘students’ are deprived of being recognized as human beings who have Rights. Any student signing up for a course of study or to do any exam has the RIGHT TO KNOW precisely what the assessment criteria and process to be used to assess their achievement of learning outcomes.
The CXC and the Ministries of Education which we are told had consensus on the holding of these exams had a DUTY to Satisfy this Right of All the students. The fact that CXC cannot or refuses to provide answers to questions about the weight applied to SBA marks is just more refusal to satisfy this Right.
As someone who has had some experience teaching at secondary and more at tertiary levels, I am most dissatisfied that it appears that students went into an examination WITHOUT THE FULFILLMENT OF THEIR RIGHT TO BE FULLY INFORMED OF THE ASSESSMENT CRITERIA AND PROCESS.
As a citizen I am totally disappointed that our elected officials at the Education Ministry and Government did not ensure that the students’ Rights (and their parents) to full information on the basis for the revised assessment methods for these important exams.
Our ‘education system’ has long been a system of certification on which the futures of our children depend. Now that the examinations have been remodelled and the outcome are not satisfactory, the anxieties of students and their parents are pushed aside and defending the mythicized ‘examination council’ becomes priority one.
The silence of the PTA’s, the Teachers’ Union, Education Ministry and Government on this issue of the Rights of Students is cause for deep concern.
A Citizen Fighting for the
Rights of All