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By Nathan Roper (Alias Andre Jerome)

The results for this year’s C.S.E.C and C.A.P.E examinations have finally come in. Many of the C.A.P.E subjects reported impressive results all across the board, but this was not the case for C.S.E.C. The results are not pretty, and can actually be described in all honesty as a disappointment. In many of the C.S.E.C examinations this year, statistics have indicated that there was a downward trend in several subjects.

What is truly concerning is that this isn’t limited to fringe topics, but even the compulsory subjects that most are expected to perform well in. ‘English A’ suffered a drop of 83% to 74% over the last year. Most frighteningly of all, in Mathematics, the rate of students that have successfully passed the subject has nosedived to an unimaginable 41%, from 55% previously.

Many onlookers may be shocked by these results. However, that is not the case among the majority of the student population. Those that did C.S.E.C this year, regardless of age and gender, felt that they were not prepared, lacking the knowledge and mindset to do these exams that, despite their protests, still went ahead.

The consequences of that decision are now rearing their ugly heads. Many members of the Caribbean Examinations Council may, upon seeing the results, attempt to put the genie back in the bottle, but it’s too late now. There is no point in hiding their guilt when the results of their mismanagement are here for all to see. And to be clear, they are guilty. Some of the issues faced were unavoidable, but what was a crisis out of human control has snowballed into a man-made catastrophe.

It began with the novel coronavirus, a name I am sure no longer needs any introduction. This was a completely unforeseen challenge for humanity to overcome, one that today, three years after its discovery, many countries are still grappling with. When the pandemic arrived on the shores of many Caribbean island nations in the early months of 2020, their governments executed the proper measures to ensure the safety of their populations. These measures included the halting of regular face-to-face school as we know it. This was, of course, a necessary evil. COVID-19 is a virus that spreads due to human face-to-face interactions, and one of the areas where that could occur the most was in the school. However, the implications were troublesome, especially for those who had their C.X.C-affiliated exams in May and June, as is the norm.

No educational institution was ready for this, and had a hard time adjusting to the new normal, that being online schooling. By the time of exams in May, many schools had not mastered the art of online schooling, and the students scheduled to sit exams had lost some 2-3 months of revision. In light of this, C.X.C authorized C.S.E.C students to only do Paper 1 that year, removing the usual Paper 2. This allowed many students to pass with flying colours, and all seemed well-until C.X.C came under fire for its members poorly marking children’s exams. This shook confidence in the Caribbean Examinations Council. The fault was determined to be the council choosing to change its regular formula, which led to many of its critical components that performed well in the past, unable to function. C.X.C, ever concerned with its reputation and under increased scrutiny, decided on a new strategy — a strategy of digging its heels in and ignoring any advice.

If C.S.E.C students in 2020 faced Raptor size problems, students this year were going up against issues T-Rex size. They had faced the same issues that their predecessors had, only that they had been intensified tenfold. Whereas the period that C.S.E.C students in 2020 had been away from school prior to exams was a mere two or three months, their recent counterparts hadn’t received regular learning for over a year. Only now, with the advent of the 2021-2022 school year have most schools fully adapted to the online format. Factor into this hectic system, the added stress of trying to meet the standards for the next level of education such as community service, the lack of social interaction which all people, especially teenagers need to properly function, and the general overarching overwhelming force of the pandemic, and you find a group of students under heavy pressure and stress, having been away from school for a year, facing exams that will determine their future. This is a recipe for disaster.

C.X.C had been warned about this, but it persisted, implementing pointless measures just to appease teachers and parents. It chose to extend the period that students had to prepare for their exams by a month, but when compared to the ocean of problems facing students, this seems almost laughable. What should have been done was to allow students to only sit Paper 1, as had been done last year. Yet last year’s students, who only lost at most three months of learning, were able to get away with that measure, while this year’s students, away for over a year, had been denied it. The results are now here for all to see.

The ultimate reason for this isn’t the coronavirus, it’s C.X.C’s constant obsession to keep itself in a positive light, to keep money flowing into its accounts. Even in this it is unsuccessful. The 180 measures it has taken resulted in nothing but several promising young students getting bad results, and disdain for the body reaching fever pitch. As a group in the educational sector, CXC should focus more on the needs of students than itself, and on the students’ well-being rather than the council’s wallet.

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