The former registrar of the Barbados-based Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC), Dr. Didacus Jules has been commenting on the ongoing threat by teachers across the region to withdraw their services in marking examination projects under the School Based Assessment (SBA) and the Caribbean Primary Exit Assessment (CPEA) set by the CXC.
Teachers in some Caribbean countries, notably, Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and Barbados have been complaining about not being paid to mark the projects and have threatened to withdraw their services in protest.
But Jules, who left the post in 2014 after six years to become the Director General of the St. Lucia-based organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), said that the issue of payment to the teachers has been a long standing matter.
“I am not surprised but I am disappointed because the issue of payment for marking exams in general arose when I was registrar of CXC and one of the first things I had done was to go to Council asking for a significant increase in the subvention paid to CXC in order to pay markers much more because there had been no increase in the preceding 25 years,” he told HTS Television here.
“We felt it was necessary to ensure that markers were given more significant compensation for their marking,” he added.
The CXC was established in 1972 under agreement by the participating regional governments to conduct examinations as it may think appropriate and award certificates and diplomas on the results of any such examinations so conducted. The Council is empowered to regulate the conduct of any such examinations and prescribe the qualification requirements of candidates and the fees payable by them.
The 16 participating countries are Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago and Turks and Caicos Islands.
Jules told television viewers that during his six-year tenure he tried desperately to deal with the situation, noting the SBA from its inception “was one of the most far sighted things that the CXC could have done that distinguished it from the British-based Cambridge University examinations.
“First of all the SBA is an opportunity for students to apply the knowledge in whatever subject they are doing to real life and to show their application of knowledge.
“That’s one dimension. The second important dimension is that it is an opportunity for the class room teacher who has interacted with the students throughout the year to have a significant input into the grading, whatever is the final grading of the student and therefore just not rely on a two or three hour exam, do or die”.
CXC has said that the SBAs are part of the national schools’ curriculum and that teachers cannot be paid any additional funds for assessing the projects.
“It is very unfortunate because I think in some ways this is a debate that is focused on the money and the SBAs is not a monetary thing, neither was it meant to be an imposition on teachers that would unduly tie up their time and create extra effort. All of that was supposed to have been fitted within the ambit of the work that they do in their classrooms and to give value to that in awarding final grades to students,” Jules added.
Earlier this week, the Grenada government praised teachers who defied calls to not mark the projects of students doing the SBAs.
“We are aware of recent correspondence from the Grenada Union of Teachers, advising its membership not to mark the SBAs and CPEA projects but instead to submit those to the Ministry of Education. This call is troubling given its potential far-reaching implications for our children.
“Government therefore applauds those teachers who have remained resolute in their mission to safeguard the education of the next generation and have willingly fulfilled the assessment requirements.”
The government said that it wanted to assure parents that their children’s assessment and ultimately their examination grades, will not be negatively affected.