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CXC flawed, but not broken

The trinidad Guardian / The region’s education system has been a hot topic as of late due to scepticism regarding its capability as our head examining council.

I am a graduate of Fatima College and I hope to bring to light the many hindrances engendered by CXC while advocating for effective, practical solutions to the dilemmas my classmates, teachers, school and I have encountered.

Firstly, I would like to make it abundantly clear that I am not attempting to degrade CXC by any means; I only wish to improve the current system of operation so that others do not have to endure what so many already have.

Secondly, in no way, shape or form do the views and practices expressed in this article represent the views and practices of Fatima College. These are my personal observations of multiple institutions, both public and private.

CXC is currently responsible for setting T&T’s SEA, CSEC and CAPE examinations, and it has done so with very inconsistent results. While this problem has always existed it has worsened in the recent years; exams have reached the point where students expect errors to be on their paper as seen repeatedly with SEA and the eradication of nearly the entire module 3 (one third of the paper) from CAPE Pure Mathematics Unit 1 Paper 2 in 2016.

Recently, CXC has been pushing digitisation in order to keep pace with foreign examining bodies. However, CXC currently lacks the resources and level of professionalism that foreign examining bodies boast.

Insufficient checks create an environment which is non-conducive to work, in turn provoking poor performance of markers.

Many teachers and principals are currently lobbying to reimplement the old system of in-person gatherings around a table to mark scripts as it has been previously proven to be far more effective than our current systems.

As these markers previously discussed are humans, mistakes will be made-queries have long been the remedy for this problem. In 2016, CXC released that only 15 per cent of queries resulted in a marked change and this caused them, understandably, to switch queries from remarking to recalculation-effectively rendering the query void.

However, it may have been more appropriate for CXC to consider alternatives. Queries should be done in three stages at three different points: a simple recalculation of marks, a remarking of the entire paper, and a remarking of the entire paper with detailed feedback. Alternatively, CXC can administer complete transparency with detailed subject reports and marking schemes for subjects. The latter would effectively reduce all unnecessary queries as students and teachers would go through their own papers and only query actual problems.

In addition, the issue of multiple-choice papers (MCQ’s) has been public knowledge since the 90’s despite attempts to keep it secret. CXC should acknowledge this issue directly as it gives a paramount advantage (up to 40 per cent in the case of Physics) to those who can afford to obtain them through favourite teachers and lessons programmes. This can be simply solved by issuing new multiple-choice questions or an alternative paper every year.

Further amplifying the MCQ situation, Internal Assessment (IA’s) are also an issue. Normally accounting for 20 per cent of a student’s grade (40 per cent in the case of Caribbean studies and even more in Entrepreneurship) IA’s are an integral part of a student’s report. Since the advent of the digital age, IA’s have become effortless to plagiarise and, as previously discussed, CXC lacks the ability to properly regulate them.

Lab books are also in the same boat as past student’s books can be easily acquired. There are also numerous rumours that some schools give their students IA exams-such as Pure Mathematics-to take home and do the day before the actual assessment. All of this points to the reality that IA’s should be wholly abolished.

In conclusion, CXC is flawed, but not broken. There are several changes that could, and should, be implemented as soon as possible. The current system works to disproportionately punish those students who are the most ethical: the students we should want to reward and promote to the highest offices of leadership in this country.

WILLIAM JOHNSON

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