The accuracy of the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) and Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) results is being called into question by pupils, parents and teachers, who are calling for a review to be done by the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC).
This follows the release of results on Tuesday which they believe do not reflect the pupils’ true performance, leaving many of them “devastated” and “traumatised”.
In one case, a teacher told the Express almost an entire class failed in three subject areas, due to what she described as a mix-up in grading by CXC.
The teacher, who did not want to be identified, said she was shocked by the results since the pupils’ performance prior to the exam indicated they were on track to receiving good grades.
“I have one student in particular who consistently performed well,” she said. “In fact, we had her down to win a scholarship. But her grades came back with a four and two fives. That is impossible.
“This is a student who consistently topped the class. She is devastated. She has been crying ever since the results came out.”
The teacher said she initially put the unexpected results down to stress over Covid-19, but when she began to receive calls and complaints from colleagues at other schools, she realised there was a problem.
“It is not only our school. I have been talking to other teachers and parents from other schools, and they are saying the same thing.”
She said she was told that CXC re-graded pupils’ Internal Assessments (IA) and School-Based Assessments (SBA) and did not use the grades provided by the teachers, resulting in a lower overall grade for many pupils. She said if this was the case, CXC must explain its rationale.
A group of parents have also begun rallying to have CXC review the exam results.
Spokesperson for the group Ricky Soodeen told the Express yesterday his daughter, a pupil at St Augustine Girls’ High School, wrote the CAPE Unit One exams and was anticipating excellent grades.
She was expecting all ones, but received a five, a three and two grade twos, Soodeen said.
He said his daughter had performed exceptionally well in the CSEC exams last year, earning nine distinctions.
‘Parents know their children’
Asked whether other factors may have contributed to her performance being lower than expected, Soodeen said no.
“We as parents, we know our child. We know the investment we made in extra lessons, we know the commitment and dedication she had, burning the midnight oil because she knows what she wants to accomplish.
“Parents know their children and we know that we invested the time and energy and effort in our children.
“We paid thousands of dollars for extra lessons for them. We saw their commitment and dedication, we know what to expect.”
Soodeen said his daughter broke down and cried upon seeing the results.
“Later on in the day, a lot of her friends messaged and said they were in the same predicament. I also have a nephew that attends Hillview College and he himself was shocked.”
He said CXC must explain the grading process, as the low grades have now excluded some pupils from qualifying for a scholarship or even getting into The University of the West Indies.
CXC: Submit a query
Another parent said her daughter’s results stated that she was absent for the exams. She insisted that her daughter wrote all her exams, and she could not understand how she was graded as “absent”.
Another parent of a pupil at Presentation College, San Fernando, told the Express his son’s results were “completely wrong”.
“I know people will say we are looking for excuses to explain our children’s grades, but that is not what this is. Too many people are complaining about the same thing. There is something seriously wrong,” he said.
In fact, CXC’s Facebook page was inundated with complaints yesterday from pupils and parents expressing disbelief with the results.
“I watched my A student daughter work too hard to be graded the way she was. She did exceptionally well with her SBAs and was familiar with majority of the questions on the exams.
“I am not going to sit back and allow her hard work to go unrecognised. These results by far are not a true representation of my daughter’s efforts. Fix this immediately!” one parent demanded, in a comment to the organisation.
“There seems to be something definitely wrong with CAPE results. How can you go into an exam with excellent IA marks and do a multiple choice paper with almost all the questions repeated and get 3s and 4s?” another parent questioned.
The organisation responded in a post yesterday evening, advising pupils to use the established channels to query their grades.
“If candidates have questions regarding their results, CXC has a long-established process in place for addressing these concerns,” CXC stated. “Candidates who have questions about an Absent or Ungraded result, can submit a query. If there is a question about a grade and the candidate wishes to have a script re-examined, they may submit a request for a Review.”
However, a parent told the Express the process to have a grade reviewed has a cost attached. According to an e-mail sent to the parent by CXC, it costs US$30 to review individual grades.
“How can they ask us to pay for something that it’s obvious there was an error on their end?” the parent said. “This is their error, they have to fix it.”
The Express understands pupils in other islands have also complained of inconsistencies with their grades.
Several petitions have since been launched, calling for an overall review of the examination results.
Petitions have been started by pupils in Guyana, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago.
One petition has gathered over 11,000 signatures and another was approaching 9,000 signatures as of yesterday evening.
Ministry congratulates pupils
The Express could not reach the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association for comment on the matter yesterday.
Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly also did not respond to calls or a text message request for comment.
The ministry, however, issued a news release yesterday, congratulating pupils, teachers and parents on their performance in the exams.
“The results demonstrate the discipline and perseverance of our students despite the challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic,” the ministry stated.
The ministry said 8,497 pupils wrote the CAPE Unit 1 and Unit 2 exams in 32 subject areas, with 95.2 per cent achieving passing grades.
“This year, 76.07 per cent of subject entries attained Grades I, II and III. Performance in CAPE Unit I: 26 out of 32 subjects attained a pass rate of 90 per cent and above, while 25 out of 32 subjects attained a pass rate of 90 per cent and above at CAPE Unit II,” the release stated.
In the CSEC exams, 24,136 candidates were registered in 34 subject areas.
There was a 70.4 per cent pass rate, the ministry said.