–some say they’re excited; others fear they’re ‘about to lose it’
By Tamica Garnett
WHEN the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) released the results of their varying 2020 examinations on Tuesday, many of the local students excitedly signed into the virtual portal provided, eager to see what were the fruits of the hard labour they had put in while preparing for their exams under unusually trying circumstances.
But what started out as excitement for some, turned into a mental-health crisis for many, as when Foluke John saw her results, it sent the 18-year-old aspiring orthodontist into a panic attack, and it was only the comfort of realising that her other colleagues were also having issues with their grades that she was able to calm down.
“The only reason I came down quickly was because of the influx of messages of persons with similar issues. I was like, ‘It’s not that I’m dumb; it’s a class-wide problem,” Foluke jocularly said. Now able to laugh about it, she is looking forward to the issue being addressed.
She sees the situation greatly affecting the future prospects of her career path if not rectified.
“I’m an aspiring orthodontist, and the dental school at UG only accepts the best of the best,” the distraught young lady said, adding: “I worked hard this year, only for this to be the result; I don’t know any university that will accept those grades. UG has already asked for my Grades; I don’t know what I’ll do while I wait for this to be rectified.”
It is now a well-known fact that hordes of students from all across the Caribbean have received Grades for their CXC 2020 exams that they say defeat all logical reasoning.
The students have all galvanised their parents, teachers, schools and respective governments into demanding that the CXC review and reveal what grading criteria was utilised in 2020, when a modified version of their exams was conducted in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Customarily administering exams to schools students annually in May/June, this year, the CXC was forced to postpone their examinations, after the COVID-19 pandemic caused school closures across the Caribbean.
The examinations body later took the decision to hold the exams in July/August, and modified it to award grades based on the students’ performance in pre-exam assessments, and a Paper One, and cancelling the regular Paper Two component.
The students are now calling on CXC to show exactly what took place with this year’s exams, and how they arrived at the grades the students received.
When Queen’s College student Areeb Ali wrote 21 subjects in 2018, he finished fourth in the country, after attaining 17 Grade Ones, three Grade Twos and a Grade Three; he followed that up by attaining three Grade Ones, three Grade Twos and a Grade Three in 2019, in his first year writing the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations (CAPE).
So it has been boggling the mind of the 19- year-old as to how he could’ve ever ended up with three Grade Twos, two Grade Threes, two Grade Fours and a Grade Five when he wrote his Unit 2 subjects this year at CAPE.
“I don’t think any of these grades reflected the student I am,” Areeb declared.
Notwithstanding not being able to understand it, he was not at all surprised at the Grades he saw when he signed into the CXC virtual portal on Tuesday. He had already seen endless messages from his colleagues, warning that something was gravely wrong with the Grades that they were seeing.
“Before I checked it, I saw people sending messages that their grades were messed up, so I wasn’t too surprised to see the same; so it didn’t affect me much,” the West Demerara lad said.
Jeremy Singh wrote his first set of CAPE in Lower Sixth, and attained straight Grade Ones in all five of his Unit One subjects, so when he wrote five Unit Two subjects in 2020, after studying almost every night in preparation for the exam, the two Grade Ones and three Grade Threes he was awarded still have him in disbelief.
“When I logged in and saw the grades, my chest felt heavy. I signed out, and signed in again to make sure that they were my actual results, because I knew there had to be a mistake. I began wondering if I had messed up the Paper Ones, even though I knew I aced them,” the 18-year-old aspiring neurosurgeon recalled.
Toneisha Jacobis received full marks in her Internal Assessment (IA) for Accounting Unit 1, so when she wrote the multiple-choice Paper 1, which she says comprised a number of questions used in previous papers, her confidence level was on high in her expectations for her grade.
Instead, she is was left dumbfounded to find out she was ungraded, one of four results from her performance at this year’s CAPE that she is not prepared to accepted.
CAPE and the Caribbean Secondary Examinations Certificate (CSEC) are the two most popular exams written by students across the region.
The situation has not been relegated only to Guyanese students. In Trinidad & Tobago, one student reported writing five units at CAPE, and while she got two Grade Ones and a Grade Two, she is making it clear she’s not accepting the Grade Five that CXC awarded her in Pure Mathemtics.
“CXC made a mistake with my grade when it comes to Maths; I’m really confused about it, because I had a really good IA mark, and the Maths paper had a lot of repeated questions. Inasmuch as I believe what CXC did was wrong, I’m still scared as a student that I would be punished for speaking out,” said the student from the UWI Open Campus Pre-University Centre, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Over in Jamaica, a student of the St. Andrews High School for Girls said she received an 80 per cent pass in her IA for History Unit, so she, too, is in disbelief of the Grade Four she was awarded in the subject.
“I was really upset with my history grade, because I knew that exam was easy; I am positive I sit in the Grade One region,” she said.
Even as they await to see what CXC will do about the situation, the students are comforted in knowing that they are not alone in their fight, and that what has happened to them is not because hard work doesn’t pay off.