asja

ATTENTION Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly.

I am a sixth form pupil of Anjuman Sunnat-ul-Jamaat Association (asja) Girls’ College, San Fernando, and I have just received the results of my CAPE Unit I examinations which were held in July 2020.

On September 22, Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) released said results, and left a very large number of pupils, myself included, in a state of shock, despair and very great confusion. The grades awarded to us by CXC in no way at all reflect any effort put into preparation for the months leading up to these examinations, nor do they show any consistency with previous performance.

As pupils, as individuals, we know when to hope, and when to have confidence. We know our capabilities, and we know our limits.

Writing the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examinations in 2019 has taught us to work hard and to know what to expect. It is no secret how different writing the CAPE examinations is to writing CSEC, but our time in school, with having to write end-of-term tests, midterms, do assignments and manage labs and IA’s would have served to acclimatise us to the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) environment.

From the results of our end-of-term (mock) exams, we would have had an indication of the grades (Is, IIs, IIIs, etc) we were to receive, come actual exams. We knew the amount of work we had to put in, the time we had to dedicate and the sacrifices we had to make, and many of us actually did. With the upsurgence of the Covid-19 pandemic, our exams were postponed by two months. At the very least, this served to give us more time to prepare.

Students know the level of work they put in, the quality of SBA’s and IA’s submitted, and they most certainly knew what was written on the paper 1 examination. It is for this reason that there is an outpouring of dissatisfaction and a sea of unsettled and angered pupils. We are not children that need to be supervised every hour of the day and we are most certainly not people to face injustice and let it go. We are the future of this country, and we deserve to fight for that future. These unfairly assigned subpar grades that do not reflect the capabilities of pupils severely jeopardise our chances of getting into university and having sustainable careers.

CXC is no stranger to you, nor is it to any individual passing through our education system. As such, you must be aware that they have been running circles around the pupils they examine and cannot stand up to the heights of the pedestals we put them on. They are a body that for years has not been held accountable and has not been transparent, forthcoming or honest about its methods, systems and morals. They have not had proper and true communication with pupils and schools alike, and whatever little they give, is unsure or contradicting.

How can CXC say, “The leadership of the Council values tremendously our responsibility to develop human capacity in our region and we look forward to fruitful discussions with our stakeholders about how we can better serve the people of the Caribbean,” when they most certainly have not been having ‘fruitful discussions’ about how to better serve the people of the Caribbean?

This year, they did not make school bodies aware of the change in plans for marking IA’s and SBA’s until these were already assessed by teachers and handed in. Without the Paper II, the weighting of the SBA/IA, was greatly increased, putting pupils who were relying on the paper 2 at great risk. CXC’s grading scheme is also very vague. We are not given percentages, or our final mark. Instead, we are given Roman numerals that we are meant to take without question.

There are pupils who, prior to results were given conditional acceptances, which have now been revoked. These are high-performing pupils, who have no doubt put in the time and work to achieve their needed grades. Parents have already paid tuition fees, and are now struggling to get back money. School semesters have already started, and because of these 2020 results, these pupils cannot attend university this year. All the while CXC has given statistics, stating that this year “has had an increase in the number of acceptable grades achieved”. How can we accept this when there are so many pupils who got cheated out of their futures?

CXC has robbed the pupils of this year, and perhaps detrimentally changed the course of our futures. If this were the fault of the pupil you would not be reading this letter and you most certainly would not be seeing a river full of pupils and parents seeking the truth flowing through the Caribbean.

I am not naïve enough to believe that you alone can solve this problem, but this is a matter that deserves to be treated with the utmost urgency and care, as if it were the tragedy that it is. While irregularities are a common place at examinations councils the world throughout, the sheer volume of instances this year clearly shows a systematic failure in CXC’s grading methodology.

You are the Minister of Education of T&T, and I know that you cannot base your actions off of the actions of other countries, but there is enough of a problem in our own home to warrant action. Students are running out of hope, teachers are beyond confused and school administrations are resigned to that fact that CXC will not take action unless a joint effort is made by every involved party. Students, parents, teachers, principals and you, the Minister, all need to take a stand, because to ignore our plea for help, and dismiss our concerns as a matter of no importance is an act of abandonment, and reflects poorly on the administration of this country to let its youth fall into such despair.

I eagerly await your statement on the situation, and the actions you take to assist the pupils you are meant to be looking after.

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