SCHOOLS have been reopened in St. Lucia for the commencement of the third and final term in the academic year 2020-2021. And from my information, the education system is running quite well at the Primary level. And my hope is that the system continues that way to the end of the term.
However, at the secondary level, the situation is a little different, particularly with the students preparing to write the Secondary School Exit Examination or CSEC exam.
We all know that the COVD-19 Pandemic has seriously disrupted school in St. Lucia putting students at a serious disadvantage within the realms of teaching and learning.
Notwithstanding, the education Ministry has done reasonably well within the context of the resources allocated to it. In particular, I wish to commend the Chief Education Officer, who is the technical officer of the Ministry of Education, managing over a thousand school children in the COVID-19 season, is no easy matter.
The Chief has shown a high level of resilience coping with life in the St. Lucia Education System at this time. No doubt, her output is because of her early beginnings at the Roseau Combined School under the Principalship of Sylvestre Phillip. As a result, I want to be very charitable in what I write regarding current life in our education system.
I have two grandchildren attending the same secondary school in St. Lucia. And I have been monitoring their work and helping them from Primary School up to now. It is my desire to see them succeed at the CSEC examination which is to be held very soon.
Since students had lost a considerable amount of contact and virtual time, I had been trying to find out what the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) was doing to accommodate students at this time.
To be frank, I was getting little from our local Education Ministry. On 4th January 2021, CHOICE television carried a news item which indicated that teachers, principals and teachers’ associations from Trinidad & Tobago and Guyana were expressing similar concerns about the forthcoming CSEC examination, in the context of the amount of instructional time that students had lost and the fact that many teachers had not completed the prescribed syllabuses or syllabi.
In a subsequent news item on CHOICE NEWS, I learnt that the Ministers of Education in the region were going to meet on 26th February to consider suggestions that were put forward by educators. No such information was coming from the Ministry of Education in St. Lucia.
In fact, the council met with Ministers of Education in the Caribbean Community to discuss and agree on a response from CXC which would deal favourably with the CSEC examination 2021.
The council agreed that students would write two papers, one and two. Paper one would be made up of Multiple-Choice items. Regarding paper two which include short answers, CXC has agreed to highlight areas of the syllabus from which questions would be given. This is commendable in the present situation. Indeed, students would now be able to focus more intently on those areas to be tested.
Now that is not giving away the exam! Members of the Caribbean Examination Council are themselves trained in Testing, Measurement and Evaluation. Council provides very regularly a syllabus of Work; Specimen Examination Papers a Marking scheme, and even subject report following the exam. The time to be spent on each exam is also provided.
Additionally, CXC informs students of the Pre- requisite skills student would need to undertake a course of study; for example, skills in communication in the cast of language and computational skills needed in Mathematics.
Let me inform you that as an educator who has been trained in Testing, Measurement and Evaluation, that what CXC has done is what any examination Board would have done in assessing learning at any level of an education system.
There is a considerable range of techniques by which the abilities and acquired skills of pupils can be tested and the process of selecting the most appropriate must be governed by a number of important considerations, in particular; (a) the purpose for which the assessment is to be undertaken; (b) the time and resources available to both the teacher and the learner; (c) the age and ability of the students and may I add, the prevailing circumstances at the time, like the COVID-19 situation sweeping the Caribbean Islands at this time.
As an educator, and a parent, I wish to congratulate the Caribbean Examination Council on the serious effort that the Council has made to introduce a framework which student and teachers would be most comfortable with for the CXC Examination 2021.
Another area of concern for me which is beyond the CXC, is the School Based Assessment (SBA). I am not happy with the level of supervision many students have received or are receiving particularly students in the Natural Sciences. Insufficient lab time at the school and teacher supervision where that is required by the student.
I know of cases where the students have showed up for lab supervision and the teacher, lecturer did not show up for one reason or another.
As parents, we are hoping for the best for our children and students, and that we would be well compensated for our investment in our children by bringing home CXC results which we would be proud of. And that would worth the time and energy spent helping our children.