IT is curious to the point of being astounding that the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) could describe as a communications issue the matter which contributed to widespread reported discrepancies in the marking system for this year’s region-wide examinations.
So concerned, in fact incredulous, were teachers and pupils here in Trinidad and Tobago about what appeared to be the large-scale downgrading of results from the CAPE and CSEC exams this year, that immediate rejections of them was swift and forceful.
Certain that something had gone terribly wrong in the process, teachers, parents and pupils in the local education system wasted no time in rejecting what they had originally been presented with.
Information about this fiasco began leaking out just as interested parties began digesting the results with which they were presented before the flood of rejections started hitting the local media. When the reviews got underway, swiftly it must be stated with acknowledgement, some pupils who had originally been awarded disappointingly low, or outright failing grades in some disciplines, were upgraded to top marks.
We reported yesterday that the independent review team which was appointed to investigate the widespread concerns surrounding this near fiasco, discovered what it described as “a breakdown in communication between schools and the CXC”. This, it said, “could have led to pupils receiving lower results”.
As such, this statement added, the team made “several recommendations” which the CXC Registrar and its chief executive officer moved swiftly to decide on immediate implementation. In an acknowledgement that this matter is far from having been resolved for this year, the CXC leadership has further extended the deadline for the submission of requests for the results review. They have also announced a reduction in the fees for such results reviews, which apparently will yet be made.
In its announcement, the CXC administration has also allowed that as the process goes forward, where previously issued marks have been upgraded, those pupils will be so advised, as well in those instances in which the grades remain the same, or are marked down, as the case may be.
What all this exposes, however, is the enormous room for error which the organisation has now publicly accepted as part of the process, in a system which carries so much weight in the determination of the life-choices of future Caribbean generations.
As Vice-Chancellor of The University of the West Indies, and chairman of the CXC, Prof Sir Hilary Beckles is one of the region’s foremost educators, with an outstanding international reputation. He defended what he said was the educational and technical soundness of the CXC examination and marking systems, even as it allowed for a “modified approach” to the process.
He spoke of “technical challenges in the examinations communications” which were discovered during the review, and he acknowledged the need for greater efficiency in the “relationships within the system”.
All of this notwithstanding, how could it have led to a communications breakdown which produced a grading system so massively questionable, remains to be more fully explained.