CXC officials fine-tuning CPEA exam project
April 5, 2013

CXC officials fine-tuning CPEA exam project

The future of education is expected to be brighter for students, parents, and teachers, as the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) prepares to implement the Caribbean Primary Exit Assessment (CPEA).{{more}}

For now, CXC officials are fine-tuning the initiative, and are just as eager to see the project take off in full flight, in primary schools region-wide.

Under this initiative, primary school students will be assessed on common literacies, and it is anticipated that the CPEA will provide the foundations for a seamless transition to secondary education, and facilitate portability of qualifications across the Caribbean region.

The CPEA is expected to assist with the quality measures in the primary education system, as well as offer a common measure across schools and territories in the region.

Two weeks ago, Dr Didacus Jules, registrar at CXC, along with CXC consultant Desmond Broomes, visited St Vincent and the Grenadines, to hold consultations with the major stakeholders, namely educators, cabinet members and opposition members, to discuss the introduction of the CPEA, which is expected to commence in 2014.

Jules and Broomes, speaking to SEARCHLIGHT, said that the CPEA is being introduced at a time when educators are now more aware of how pupils learn, what motivates them, and taking historical context into consideration, the meritocratic basis of assigning places is no longer necessary, with the introduction of universal access to secondary education.

“We have now come up in this new century with ways of teaching and learning which will make a big improvement on the economic, social and educational welfare of every country within the Caribbean,” Broomes explained.

“For example, take the simple thing as parental involvement in pupils performance. We don’t want a parent to be a scientist, but what we are saying there are a lot of activities which are done within the kitchen of a home, which are activities akin to what a scientist will be doing: measuring, observing, and putting things in a certain order.

“So the very baking of a cake and getting that cake over and over again, is what a scientist is all about… and we are now putting together all those factors which we have experienced from research….”

“In addition,” Jules added, “because you will recall that the common entrance emerged at a point where Caribbean countries were just beginning to provide secondary education, and so it was very restricted, and opportunity was limited.

“So, you needed an examination on a meritocratic basis where you could assign places.

“Now that we are at a stage of universal secondary education, where every child has the opportunity to go to secondary school; we have to ensure that quality prevails,” Jules said. “You do not just move children automatically from primary to secondary; we have to guarantee that we have the competencies required in order to succeed at secondary level, and that’s why the whole modality of the exam needs to change.”

Jules pointed out that some key features of the CPEA are that students will be involved in group work and projects, which would give them hands on experience, as well as enable students to catch up with, and help other students in, and outside of their classrooms.

With the CPEA, educators will still be able to rank students, in order to secure students’ placements in secondary schools.

He also acknowledged that one common entrance staple, the General Paper, would be missing from the assessment.

“We have deliberately taken that part and put it under… the role of teachers, and we are very happy about what teachers are doing, because the ways in which they are constructing tests, we are finding that the tests constructed by teachers… are producing data which compare very favourably with the test produced under the CXC guidance….”

When asked if the teachers are prepared for what’s in store, given the belief that there will be more work on teachers’ already “full plate,” Broomes said that, as with other territories, teachers here are showing a sharp readiness for accepting the programme.

“What impressed me is their readiness to accept this programme as an important strategy, for moving persons from one level of performance to another,” said Broomes. “And I wondered how come these teachers are so highly prepared to accept this programme as if there was in the air, something that is making them highly responsive to this programme. They are saying this is a wonderful programme.

“It’s more work at the beginning… but as you start doing them, you acquire the skill of easily doing that kind of task analysis, breaking down the thing into sub-tasks, sub-tasks which could be grasped easily for any level of understanding in your class and that’s a lot of work at the begining.”

Jules added: “We are only ready for anything if we take on the challenge of doing it; there is no artificial readiness…. we have to take the challenges head-on, confront them.

“As we walk the road, we deal with issues as they come up, which is why we spent so much time on the pilot phase, and the good thing about the pilot phase, it was not done in a few schools; every primary school in those countries were on board, so it gave us a real appreciation of the challenges of putting this assessment out there for all schools to come on board.”

The CPEA was piloted in Grenada and Anguilla, which the officials described as a success, and gave the CXC an opportunity to tweak certain areas.

Jules indicated that individual governments and education ministries would also have some tweakings of their own to do, in areas such as whether a cost to the parents would be attached, and the method for secondary school placements. (JJ)