Updated Tuesday 25 May 2021, 7:17 by Denis Chabrol
The United Nations Children’s Agency (UNICEF) urges the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) not to conduct the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) exams and the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations this year in their current form.
Here is the full text of a statement issued by UNICEF representatives, including Nicolas Pron, UNICEF Office Representative for Guyana.
UNICEF is concerned about the decision of the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) to maintain the upcoming Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) and the Caribbean Advanced Skills Examination (CAPE) for students as they are. are currently being designed.
UNICEF calls on the CXC and ministers of education to make adjustments to the content and administration of these exams, in line with recommendations made by the Caribbean Teachers Union (CUT) to ensure that students in schools in the area are not further disadvantaged.
We recognize the efforts already made by the CXC to reduce some requirements for these exams and make concessions such as (i) providing the subjects for the long answer (paper 2) five weeks before the start of the exams, (ii) reducing the requirements for SBAs and extend submission dates for certain subjects and (iii) facilitate postponements until 2022 if students meet specific criteria, (iv) the currently discussed additional postponement of the exam date. However, there are still a number of issues that require more substantial change and flexibility. For example, no changes have been made to the multiple choice document (Paper 1) which will always cover the entire program, and no clear structure has been shared as to how students meet the deferral requirements. and choose to defer will be helped to sit. reviews at a later date in 2022.
As we know, the current pandemic context has further compounded the gaps in preparedness among the most disadvantaged students. This year, there is a higher risk that students in vulnerable situations will never take exams. This could seriously affect not only their continuing education at upper secondary or upper secondary level, but also their future. While these high-stakes exams are expected to take place amid a significant disruption to education to varying degrees in the Caribbean since early 2020, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic
and the continued partial or full school closures, the increased risk of being further left behind, especially students from low-income households, who continue to face major challenges in accessing online learning, is an important consideration. In addition, natural disasters like the recent eruption of the La Soufrière volcano in St-Vincent have had an additional negative impact on the learning of thousands of students.
Teachers, parents and students themselves have repeatedly expressed concerns about low levels of preparedness as the pandemic and its impact on education have prevented students from achieving desired learning outcomes. If the exams were to be implemented as planned, our main concern is the low level of preparation (academic and psychological) of several of the thousands of 16-18 year old students in the region to take the exams. In this context, forcing students to take an exam that includes elements that cover a full two-year course of study might be ineffective.
In view of these circumstances, UNICEF calls for a fair approach to these critical reviews, which takes into account the inequality of access to learning due to the digital divide, reduced program coverage and psycho-stress. high emotional, among other consequences of the closure of schools due to the pandemic.
We therefore wish to recommend that the proposals made by the Caribbean Teachers’ Union (CUT) on how the CSTC and CAPE exams could be tailored to the specific needs and abilities of students be given further consideration by the CXC.
With this in mind, UNICEF invites the education ministers of CARICOM countries to ask the CXC to adjust the exams of the CSTC and CAPE 2021, to further simplify the content and methodology of the exam in all subjects and adapt the schedule to the challenges currently facing students to ensure equitable accessibility and participation for each student. This includes, in accordance with the recommendations of the CUT, that i.) The first article should only test the streamlined subjects that are tested in the second and not the entire programs, as said programs would not have been completed; ii) for Paper 2, remove all barriers, including mandatory questions, and ensure that no question element tests at least two content areas; and iii) extend the start of the exam for three weeks and immediately communicate streamlined board topics to students and teachers to facilitate effective preparation.
In order to provide additional support to students during COVID-19, UNICEF would like to call on ministers from CARICOM countries to:
• Expand and intensify the offer of mental health and psychosocial support services to children in preparation for exams. Children taking exams in 2021, no matter what form the exam takes, should be supported to ensure they are mentally prepared and have the tools to deal with the added stress of the review right now.
• Confirm the placement in schools of children who postpone leaving examinations (school completion) until the following year. Governments should ensure that all children who decide to postpone the exam session until 2022 will automatically continue to be enrolled in their current schools.
• Offset any financial costs associated with postponing to 2022. When a student postpones exams to 2022, arrangements should be made to ensure that the financial costs associated with schooling are minimized. Services for children who have benefited from social protection programs for which their eligibility is based on age or school attendance, which would have ended in 2021, should be continued.
• Clarify how the prevalence of COVID-19 cases will be taken into account (given the variation between countries and within larger countries like Jamaica and Guyana).
These are unprecedented times and we will collectively ask to adapt and recreate normalcy and routine, for the many disrupted lives. A moment like this calls for innovative approaches, to stem the effects of COVID-19 on generations to come. UNICEF is committed to supporting ongoing efforts while calling for equity and inclusion, especially for children and young people, who are now at increased risk of being left behind.
We are also ready to support and accompany the Ministries of Education of the respective Caribbean countries to provide technical support in the development and implementation of the proposed changes.