Head of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) Owen Speid says he is giving the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) a failing grade for its decision to have secondary students across the region sit exit exams in July, despite the danger of COVID-19.
“I think that it is reckless of the CXC. If I was marking the CXC right now I would give them a zero, and I would remove the two Cs and put two Xs. I just think that CXC is simply trying to get through its business at the expense of the children’s health,” he argued, pointing out that with numerous positive cases of children with COVID-19 in Jamaica, administering the exams in July is a significant risk.
According to the health and wellness ministry, up to March 13 the country recorded 59 cases of children with the virus.
Speid told the Jamaica Observer yesterday: “We don’t know where those children are in Jamaica; we know that once you have a number that has been tested positive, then right off the bat that number is not just as is, you will always have more out there, especially among children.”
He stressed that students’ health must be at the forefront of all decisions, and pointed to at least one other country which tentatively reopened schools and reported a spike in COVID-19 cases.
“What is missing from the conversation is that the children are not just going to be hoisted from their homes and land in the centres. Things are going to happen between when they leave home and reach the centres and when they leave the centres to head back home. No one is going to have any control over them and the way they travel in these buses and robot taxis, and 90 per cent of our children take public transportation. They could become infected even before they reach the centres, so I’m not talking about when they’re at the centres,” the JTA president said.
He stressed that the exams, which are to be modified to multiple choice papers, is unnecessary, and not worth the risk.
“A multiple choice paper is not going to add much more value to the overall examinations. The risk factor is just too great. The children are going to be out there travelling among people and other children who may have this virus, and you have to consider, as well, the invigilators who will be asked to come to these centres,” Speid said.
CXC says components of the scores will also come from school-based assessment, and additional assessment components along with historical data and teacher-predicted information.
Speid questioned whether in the interest of safety the exams could depend on the use of existing and predictive scores similar to the approach being taken for the Primary Exit Profile. He also said the grades of students in grade 10 could possibly also go towards final exam scores, but noted that there is no standardisation at that level.
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