— students, parents protest examination results issued by CXC
— Education Ministry dissatisfied with grading; QC threatens legal action, leaving CXC
By Tamika Garnett
BACKED by the support of the Ministry of Education, their parents and their schools, scores of students from Queen’s College and The Bishops’ High protested, on Thursday, outside of the Examinations Division, QC Compound, calling on the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) to review their results from the 2020 examinations.
The Ministry of Education (MoE) in a statement on Thursday registered “dissatisfaction” with the “apparent poor grading of students at the 2020 CSEC and CAPE examinations”.
“The MoE is concerned that there seems to be discrepancies with the grades that were awarded in particular subject areas to students across the country. Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand, has since spoken to the Registrar of CXC [Dr. Wayne Westley] and has expressed her concerns,” a statement from the ministry released on Thursday noted.
The ministry made it clear that Guyana wants the matter addressed.
“Students in Guyana and across the region are currently traumatised and disenchanted, something we cannot accept. The Ministry of Education will leave no stone unturned and will pursue solutions with CXC until there is an acceptable resolution to the matter,” the release further declared.
In a brief message posted on its social media page, CXC reminded that: “If candidates have questions regarding their results, CXC has a long-established process in place for addressing these concerns.”
The students and key stakeholders are contending that there are several cases where students were awarded low grades unjustifiably. They are claiming that statistical evidence shows several affected students having done exceptionally well in previous years, suddenly being awarded grades as low as Grade Six from the 2020 examinations. The examinations had followed a modified structure due to COVID-19 pandemic situation.
“CXC failed us as an examinations body. We heard persons saying that we might have been victim to circumstances, if we were, then the circumstance was CXC,” charged Zane Ramotar, Head Prefect at QC and an Upper Six student who wrote eight units at this year’s Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations (CAPE).
Of the suite of exams administered by the Council to students across the Caribbean, CAPE and the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) are the ones most commonly written here in Guyana. Some 11, 998 students and another 851 were scheduled to write CSEC and CAPE respectively this year.
OTHER CARIBBEAN NATIONS AFFECTED
The uneasy with the grades is not only in Guyana. The Education Ministries in several other Caribbean nations such as Trinidad and Tobago (TT), Jamaica, and St Lucia, have all reported similar unbelievably low grades being awarded to students.
“I have personally spoken to CXC on the matter. It is causing distress, which is regrettable, especially for the students involved who are already stressed in this year of the pandemic,” TT Ministry of Education said in a statement issued.
Officials from QC met with Minister Manickchand on Wednesday evening via a virtual meeting, where they brought to her attention the situation in Guyana, which they say occurred at schools all across the country.
“This is not just QC sucking on sour grapes because they had a bad year. This is an injustice. It is a direct attack on our young people when they cannot get the just rewards for the efforts that they have put into this exam. This is not only QC, this is Bishops’, this is Saints, this is Rose’s, this is Guyana,” posited Kwabina Griffith, head of QC Parent-Teachers’ Association (PTA).
Griffith was, at the time, speaking at a press conference held at QC on Thursday to publicise the grievances of the students and teachers and to announce the school’s position on the matter.
Also speaking at the press conference was Kadeem Davis, President of The Bishops’ High Old Students’ Association.
“We demand justice for all the students who sat this year’s examinations. Our students deserve to be proud of the efforts of their work. We must ensure everyone receives the accurate results that reflect their efforts and the work they have put in. We will ensure that the Council rectifies its mistake,” Davis established.
Customarily written annually in May/June, in 2020 CXC examinations were postponed and subsequently written in July/August, after schools across the Caribbean regions were closed indefinitely since March due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The Council also took the decision to modify the exams and have the scores awarded based on students’ performance in pre-examinations School Based Assessments (SBA) and a multiple choice Paper One, whereas the examinations ordinarily also includes a Paper Two.
The students and their stakeholders are calling on CXC to disclose the weighting and scoring criteria assigned to each component of the examinations.
“Under normal circumstances Paper One has 40 per cent, Paper Two 40 per cent and SBA 20 per cent. CXC said the weighting will be the same. If we are not doing the Paper Two how could the weighting be the same,” Ramotar questioned.
Also vouching for the students was QC External Examinations Coordinator, Samantha Liverpool.
“I am seeing results I’ve never seen. I asked [CXC] for the marking scheme. What is the weighting of the Paper 1 to the Paper Two. We are asking that they prove our school did not meet the criteria based on their moderation. They need to prove to us where we went wrong. We are asking for you to go back to the marking, to the scripts and show us where we went wrong,” Liverpool said.
The situation she said has taken a severe toll on several of the students.
“Some of them this morning are already in a depressed mode. When students can make statuses where life is over, ‘my career has ended’, that speaks volumes. I stand by my students this morning,” the educator said.
Speaking on behalf of the CSEC students, at the press conference, was Tylor Grandison, who shared that she does not believe her grades appropriately represented her efforts.
“When I first saw my grades I was shocked. I took five mins and look at the screen, took five minutes stared at a wall and look back just to make sure I was seeing my grades. I thought not that it was the end of the world but it was discouraging. How can I continue when I thought I did exceedingly well and get substandard grades,” Grandison shared.
QC Principal, Jackie Ralph shared that the school has already retained the services of a lawyer and is giving CXC an ultimatum of announcing the review within 48 hours or the matter will be taken to court.
The school also boldly declared that it will be lobbying the Ministry of Education for Guyana to “take our business elsewhere” and find another alternative examinations body, if CXC does not straighten up and fly right.