Our students should not be further disadvantaged
September 29, 2020

Our students should not be further disadvantaged

Since the CAPE and CSEC results were released last week, some schools across the region have reported anomalies in their results, with some top students receiving grades much lower than had been predicted by their teachers.

Understandably, this has caused much distress among these students, some of whom claim they have been cheated out of scholarships and places at top universities.

There have also been instances of students who were present for exams being given an ‘Absent’ grade or where entire centres have been ‘Ungraded’ in particular subjects. While ‘Absent’ or ‘Ungraded’ results might be fairly simple to investigate and rectify, for the student who diligently studied and wrote the exam to receive such a report, cannot be a pleasant experience.

This has been a most unusual and difficult year for students writing external exams. First, face-to-face classes were suddenly terminated because of the coronavirus pandemic, then there was much uncertainty about when the exams would take place and what would be the format.

The modified exams were finally written in July / August. Results were released last week.

At this point, it is not clear what, if anything, went wrong with the regional exams. The CXC says all is well, and in fact, the overall performance of students improved when compared with 2018 and 2019. But top schools in at least two territories have staged protests, with one threatening to ditch the CXC if matters are not resolved to their satisfaction. Many other countries around the region have reported unexpectedly low grades from top students and ministries of education have asked the CXC to investigate.

Chairman of the CXC Sir Hilary Beckles said yesterday that each and every formally reported case will be reviewed and where remedies are required they will be applied.

But the CXC is not backing down from the requirement that students pay to have these reviews done. Nor is the CXC being very transparent about how students’ final grades were calculated.

In the United Kingdom, where there has been a similar upset over the results of this year’s A’level and GCSE (the equivalent of CAPE and CSEC) exams, also modified because of the coronavirus pandemic, the government decided that the appeals process should be free.

Our students and their parents have been through more than enough stress this year trying to cope with the changes forced upon them by the coronavirus pandemic. Students with genuine anomalies (as certified by their schools) should not be further disadvantaged by being made to pay to have the reviews done.

The CXC should open up and let stakeholders know how students’ marks were calculated and in all circumstances where there is ambiguity in relation to the grade to be awarded, students should be given the benefit of the doubt.