torment

EMOTIONAL STRAIN: Parents and teachers display placards outside the Ministry of Education on St Vincent Street, Port of Spain, yesterday during their mid-afternoon protest against CXC. —Photo: ROBERT TAYLOR

AN appeal has been made to Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly to get answers from the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) and put an end to “nine weeks of torment” for thousands of secondary school pupils.

The Education Ministry’s headquarters in Port of Spain was placarded yesterday by dozens of parents, who are calling for “justice” for their children who wrote this year’s CSEC and CAPE exams.

After weeks of wrangling with CXC over the 2020 results for both exams, they are now accusing the Council of taking their money for queries on results and of re-sending the same contentious grades as before.

The parents said many children are suffering emotional strain over the issue and that some were further affected by news last week of huge financial cuts to the Government Assisted Tertiary Education GATE) programme and that the number of annual State-funded scholarships has been significantly reduced.

The announcement was made last week Friday by Gadsby-Dolly, who said a means test will now be mandatory for GATE support and Government will no longer fund post-graduate degrees.

Parent and spokesperson Sherry Sookoo told The Express yesterday that enough was enough, that the nation’s children are suffering and the CXC must explain itself.

Additionally, Sookoo said: “We are calling on the Minister to seek answers from the Council. You are the bridge between the children and CXC, we don’t have a contract with CXC. Please find out from CXC how they came up with these grades.”

Sookoo said schools have started to receive results from queries by parents over their children’s grades ,but “not a single grade has been different or deserving”.

Queries were sent to the Council based on a November 6 deadline and re-grades began coming into schools a week later, Sookoo said.

However, the parents who protested yesterday are convinced that no further work was done on the issue or the children’s papers and that the previous grades were simply re-sent.

“We are appealing for the intervention of the Minister as we are unable to get answers ourselves from the CXC,” Sookoo said.

Stress all round

Even the query process was distressing, Sookoo said, as some parents could not afford the US$30 fee per subject and funds had to be raised.

She said there were also reports that some schools, which were assigned as conduits between parents and the CXC for queries, were sending applicants directly to the Ministry.

“The entire journey has been one of frustration but more so for the children,” Sookoo said. “CXC took our money and left everybody’s grades the same.”

Regional uproar followed the release of preliminary results for CSEC and CAPE on September 22, leading to a petition signed by thousands of pupils, including from Trinidad and Tobago, disputing the grades in a range of subjects.

Students and parents complained that their grades were not reflective of their academic histories and have questioned changes to this year’s marking process, which was impacted by restrictions because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Council’s chairman, Dr. Wayne Wesley, later defended the integrity of the process and said the CXC stood by its performance this year.

He gave the assurance that all legitimate claims reaching the Council would be properly processed.

Sookoo said serious queries surround the grading of School Based Assessments (SBAs), which were first graded by a teacher, then by a moderator based on the average of a sample from the school, then by a marker.

Parents are unclear as to the role of markers in this year’s process and the pupils are confused as who arrived at their grades and how, she said.

Sookoo said parents were being told that markers had not been called out by CXC in some areas and asked: “How can you give a child a grade when you haven’t laid eyes on their paper?”

She added: “If we care about our children we would not have them in this position for nine weeks. We need to hear from the Minister.”

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