Letters & Opinion

Caribbean Primary Exit Assessment: A Pilot Update

By Sylvestre Phillip M.B.E.

IN a previous article, I made an impassioned appeal for a status report on the CPEA project which had been undertaken by the Caribbean Examination Council, CXC, of which St. Lucia had participated, since 2012. I am delighted to report that a Pilot Report had been made available to St. Lucia since 2013.

I had the opportunity to hold a lengthy discussion with Dr. Didacus Jules, Director General of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, and who was the St. Lucian who held the position of Registrar of CXC at the time.

I was not surprised to discover that Dr. Jules had in his possession, a ‘reservoir’ of information on the CPEA which is available to anyone who needed insights into that project. And I have availed myself of all the information on CPEA.

I wish to indicate that Anguilla, Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis and Dominica are all in the advanced stages of implementation of CPEA. St. Lucia has not started and should have been way ahead in the implementation of the project since we had the honour of having a St. Lucian as the Registrar of CXC at the time.

In recent times, I have been hearing from Ministry officials about the commencement of CPEA this academic year. But can we start the CPEA without sufficient information being given to principals, parents, teachers and students in all of the participating schools and the general public? That level of consultation did take place in all of the participating territories already mentioned. It’s not an overnight thing! All stake-holders must be adequately prepared and be ready to move as a cohesive group fully informed.

Now let us take a look at the structure of the CPEA. The assessment structure is divided into two main parts: Internal, meaning will be done at the school level and supervised by the Ministry of Education and monitored by CXC. The internal segment will include Teacher and Pupil activities and Teacher Group activities and will have a worth of 40% of the total score as follows: Teacher and pupils – Book Report, 15 marks; Writing Task 15 marks; Project 20 marks; Practice Can Do Skills 30 marks; and self -Assessment 30 marks. The Teacher Group activities will include, Teacher prepared tests in Mathematics, 30 marks; Science 30 marks; Projects: Civics, economics and Social Studies, 30 marks making a total of 200 marks.

The External Segment will be prepared by CXC based on the syllabus or instructional programme agreed upon by the Ministry of Education, the schools and CXC will include English Language 100 marks; Mathematics, 100 marks, and Science 100 marks making a total of 300 marks. It means, therefore, that the Internal and External Segments will total 500 marks in all. 200 marks from 500 is equivalent to 40%; and 300 from 500 is equivalent to 60% which is the CPEA assessment.

Indeed, there will be many skills and Competencies to be assessed. By competencies I mean the students will demonstrate varying levels of abilities and attainments which, indeed, caters for individual differences. But every student will have the opportunity to show their prowess in the subjects or activities in which they are engaged such as English language, Mathematics, Science and Civics.

The CPEA makes adequate provisions for hands-on activities so that those students who are very good with their hands will have just as good an opportunity with those students with the more cognitive abilities. We are talking equal opportunities in CPEA.

What are some of the realisations of CPEA right from the start? There will be more efficient processing of examinations.

Students will become familiar at an earlier age of some of the relevant skills, such as critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration; since they will be working in groups; the use of technology, self-direction and communication will be the order of the day. Activities which classroom teachers are quite familiar with.

Students will get multiple opportunities to demonstrate, particularly through the introduction of the Can Do Skills component of the formative assessment. By formative assessment, I mean the assessments which they would have received as they move along.

A successful CPA programme would include Teacher Training Workshop. Now teacher training has always been the responsibility of the Principal as instructional leader. Indeed, some of the training could be delegated to competent teachers on the staff of the school.

There will be constant term review of the activities with which the students had been engaged.

A very important component of the training would be the engagement of training activities for parents and members of the public. There are some cohorts of members of the public such employers that should know and comprehend exactly what the students are doing at school. They will be able to observe whether the students are sharpening the skills that they would require in the workplace. It must be emphasized that other stakeholders would require similar training.

Some of the student activities or engagements would include Website enhancements. Now, this is the computer age. And many people would be surprised at what the very young students are capable of doing once they get the opportunity. I have two grandchildren who live with me, and when I have some difficulty with my mobile or laptop or desktop at home, I never feel ashamed to get help from them. In a twinkling of an eye, the solution is found. It’s not my fault that I was born decades before the computer age. And student and parent collaboration become imperative.

Students will be engaged in School-based assessment. Now we hear a lot of that in the upper forms of Secondary Schools close to CSEC exams. But SBA will become a regular feature of the Primary School. So that by the time the students would have gotten to Secondary School they would have developed the desired competencies to complete their SBA.

Then we would have the summative or final assessment which would be sent to the Ministry of Education for onward transmission to schools in what would be the CPEA final examination results. It should be pointed out that CXC would have obtained the scores in the internal assessment which would be combined with the external assessment to produce an authentic result for each student.

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