I am a recently turned 18-year-old Upper Six student of Guyana’s premier secondary institution: Queen’s College. My ambitions lie in the medical field. However, do note this: the contents of this letter were neither vetted nor altered by any teacher at the aforementioned institution, for I will not be anyone’s propaganda doll. This is my independent opinion.
The Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) has proposed a July timeframe for the upcoming CAPE and CSEC examinations. More notably, the examination structure has been modified. The essay style component (Paper Two) has been completely removed, leaving our final grades to be determined by our SBA score and a multiple-choice exam (Paper One). I assume that the Council is familiar with the countless objections to this strategy, our teachers’ union being one notable critic. The Jamaica Association of Principals of Secondary Schools (JAPPS) being another. With the utmost respect, I must add my voice to the chorus of disapproval. I too am asking the Council to reconsider their strategy for the upcoming examinations.
First and foremost, I do understand that these are trying times and that the Council is under pressure right now to deliver credible and fair examinations. After all, we are in the middle of a global pandemic, unaware of when this crisis will end. However, I do believe I speak on behalf of countless students regionally when I say that the proposed strategy will be a grave disservice to all of us writing the examinations. We have been preparing since the beginning of the academic year to get our SBA’s out of the way to tackle both the multiple-choice as well as the essay style examination.
Are we supposed to accept that we must dump all our hard work for the past months down the drain? The Paper Two component is an absolute necessity. We, the student population, take in and process our knowledge differently. Paper Two allows us to organise and project our thoughts in a way that is unique to us. We are the creative youth of today, let us express ourselves! The same Paper Two allows us to link our responses to other concepts resulting in a delivery demonstrating greater proficiency. It separates the sheep from the goats. A multiple-choice exam being the only source of validation of our knowledge puts us at a disadvantage.
Moreover, I do not believe that any recognised university will accept students based on the results of a multiple-choice examination. It simply is not a true reflection of students’ potential. The Council can repeat the fallacy that a valid grade can be determined using the SBA and Paper One, but it would only be like trying to convince an ostrich that it can fly. In addition to this, we have already paid our exam fees. We paid to write both papers. At the time of writing this (April 26, 2020) I have not been made aware of any provisions made by CXC to reimburse the students due to the removal of the Paper Two. If this new exam structure will not change then I believe that we should be refunded for Paper Two. After all, our parents did work hard for that money to write those exams. It must not be blatantly disregarded.
Further, if we really are to sit these exams in July at a centre then we are still breaking quarantine. We are still leaving our houses and placing ourselves at risk of contracting COVID-19. And for what? To take a multiple-choice examination that is highly unlikely to be recognised? Is it not best we just write the whole examination (Papers One and Two) and get it over it? Why put ourselves in danger for the sake of an examination that will not reflect our true potential? CXC believes that their strategy is a good one as it allows the students to write the exams within a shorter timeframe and have the papers marked and results released quicker – much like a driver’s exam. But anyone can read my previous sentence and realise the only party benefiting from this strategy: CXC.
The only logical solution is to have the students write the complete examination (Papers One and Two) at a postponed date, after the pandemic subsides. The curve will flatten and soon it will be safe for us to leave our homes without the risk of contracting COVID-19. Once again, I am calling on the Council to respectfully reconsider their current proposal for the upcoming CSEC and CAPE examinations. It is the only way forward to write credible examinations to ascertain bright futures for us, the students.