Letters & Opinion

Caribbean Primary Exit Assessment: An Amazingly Authentic Assessment Tool

By Sylvestre Phillip M.B.E

THE 2021 Common Entrance Examination Results showed that the girls outperformed the boys generally. In fact, only one boy showed up in the first ten top performers in the national exam.

I can predict, with a high level of accuracy, that the Caribbean Primary Exit Assessment (CPEA) which would be introduced in our Education System for the first time in 2022, will reflect a better or more improved performance for boys.

From my experience as an educator, I can attest to the fact that the CPEA is a more authentic assessment tool or technique for assessing the performance of our students. By authentic I mean the result of the assessment will reflect the true, genuine or real performance of the students.

On the issue of the performance of boys versus girls, the literature in education is replete with information which indicate that girls generally have a much quicker rate of development than boys, and during school life may appear one or two years ahead of boys of the same age. This difference disappears by the end of adolescence.

But what do I mean by adolescence? Adolescence is the period in human development between the end of childhood and the beginning of adulthood that is roughly ages thirteen to eighteen or twenty years.

Now childhood is the period in a person’s development between infancy and adolescence, usually five or six to eleven or twelve years of age.

Indeed, from my experience as a classroom teacher, and more particularly as a Primary School Principal, where I got the opportunity to manage or organize students and their learning, I can say with authority that boys learn quicker and better working in groups. I had the opportunity to put some aspects of the CPEA into action. The cooperative learning strategy was put into action.

Cooperative learning is a successful teaching strategy in which small teams or groups, each with different levels of ability, use a variety of learning activities to improve their understanding of the various subjects on the school curriculum.

In fact, the cooperative learning strategy allows for small group and whole group formation. By the whole group I mean the formation gives the teacher the opportunity to meet all of the students for the recitation of a poem, the singing of songs or a general assembly to give out general information.

In the small group formation in the classroom all the group members get the opportunity to learn from each other by sharing aspects of researched activities pre-planned by the teacher. In that formation, no child feels left behind.

More importantly all group members get an opportunity to share. The weaker students get an opportunity to interact with and learn from the more advanced students and the more advanced students would also learn from the weaker or slower group members. It’s a mutual sharing of information and ideas.

Now the CPEA is based on solid educational principles and includes formative or inter assessment and summative or external assessment activities.

Simply put, formative assessment would occur regularly as the students go along as well as an assessment at the end of a series of activities.

Now what kind of activities that would be included in the CPEA programme? Internal, with teacher and pupils: Project activities, Book Report activities; writing Portfolios activities, Can-do-skills activities; Pupil tests activities in an informal setting do that the slower or weaker students do not feel intimidated. Internal activities with teacher groups includes Teacher prepared tests in English, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies which are administered in a non-threatening environment.

That type of learning environment is bound to favour all students, the girls as well as the boys. That will provide the opportunity for the boys to thrive or improve their performance rapidly.

As I write, I have no doubt in my mind that the poor performance of the boys in the 2021 Common Entrance Examination has much to do with the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Already, it has been established that girls have a much quicker rate of development than boys, and the students, more particularly the boys, had been away from the classroom activities for an extended period, with no teacher and, in many cases parental supervision. So, it was a “double whammy” for the boys.

Further, many of the students were without the material resources they needed to help facilitate their learning: computer, teacher, manipulatives, friends and in some cases food.

More critically, the structure of the Common Entrance Examination many students were not given the opportunity to exercise their areas of strength. For example, in English Language they were not given the opportunity to express themselves in Creative writing or Composition since the paper mainly multiple-choice items.

Indeed, the CPEA would have given the students to do expressive writing continually which would be assessed as they went along. That would have been recorded and form part of the summative or end of year assessment. Therefore COVID_19 would not have interfered with the examination in the way that it did in 2021.

I have said many things but the gist of the article is that the CPEA will give the boys an opportunity to ‘Shine’.  And compete at “arm’s length” with the girls. I can’t wait for the 2022 CPEA results.

In closing I wish to indicate that for several years I have waited for a national or regional authentic examination which would take into account all the developmental areas of learning.

I look forward with anxiety to the 2022 Caribbean Primary Exit Assessment, and the results for boys.

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