Defender of children rights Faith Marshall-Harris is describing the ongoing Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) fiasco which is affecting thousands of students in Barbados and across the Caribbean as a travesty.
The only United Nations Children’s Fund [UNICEF]-appointed Children Champion in the Caribbean Marshall-Harris said there is an urgent need to rectify the controversy which surrounds alleged discrepancies in the grading system which has led to students across the region applying for reviews.
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She said she was not impressed that CXC’s attitude to the students appeared to be dismissive and patronizing at the outset.
“Sadly, from the information from parents and some teachers, things have not improved a lot in terms of the reviews. This is not just in Barbados. I should point out here that while I have spoken to you so far of my concerns about Barbados, I am also a member of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of a Child, one of the 18 child rights experts that operate globally. So we look at rights throughout the world.
“We have been comparing notes and a lot of the countries that had similar problems sought to resolve them within 48 hours because they knew that this would traumatize children further. Everybody was traumatized to some extent by COVID-19 and the lockdown.
“But just channel your inner child or young person and think about when you were taking CAPE or CXC, how you would feel trying to take an exam out of these conditions where there is very little in-person learning and then having struggled against those odds to be further traumatized by exam results that were totally, as far as I can see it, out of sync,” she said.
The children advocate said the worst story she has heard regarding the controversy came out of Belize where it was only discovered recently that examination papers have been lost and were not corrected. Marshall-Harris said the situation is horrific and causes her to feel deeply for the students who took the examinations last school year and got poor showing out of no-fault of their own.
“And I put this against the kind of situations that other countries use where when the results coming back are not reflecting what the students have been doing, they either use new algorithms for deciding the results or they decide let us go with the teacher predicted grades.
“In other words, you taught this student up to this point, how would you predict that they would score? And that was done, for example, in the United Kingdom, within 48 hours. So this situation that confronts us is not in any way unique to the Caribbean, it is just that we in a uniquely Caribbean way decided that the children were just not important.
“And frankly, sitting on the UNCRC [United States Convention on the Rights of the Child] as the only Caribbean member, I am embarrassed that that happened to our students because to me it spoke volumes as to how we see our children and the authorities have to respond and they are trying. But I don’t know how much authorities can do without the examining body itself examining itself,” she lamented.
Marshall-Harris also indicated that based on calls to her and the helpline of the Sandy Lane Charitable Trust (SLCT), Class 4 students getting ready to sit next year’s 11 Plus Examination appear not to be prepared because of difficulties in the existing learning environment as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“A lot of it has to do with the fact that they don’t feel as ready as they would like to be,” she said.