St Mary’s College, Port-of-Spain

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The principal of St Mary’s College (CIC) has joined the call for a review by the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) of this year’s Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) and Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Exam (CAPE).

Nigel Joseph yesterday addressed parents of his school’s students saying that the school had been receiving reports mainly from CAPE students that their grades were “vastly different to what was expected.”

He said school officials were unable to assess the school’s overall results at the time to gauge the extent of it as the broadsheet was not accessible. He said he gained access on Wednesday night and “would say that the results are unprecedented in the history of our CAPE results.”

Joseph continued: “Our initial analysis of the CSEC results also raises concerns in certain subjects. It is our view that these results, in no way, reflect a true indication of our student’s performance and we intend to issue correspondence to both CXC and the Ministry of Education to this effect.”

He said he contacted the local CXC Registrar yesterday morning to indicate the school’s position but acknowledged the situation was not unique to CIC, “but literally all schools in the country and across the Caribbean.”

Joseph sought to reassure parents and distraught students that “It is my intention to do all that is possible to ensure that this debacle is addressed and corrected, and with the support of other principals, the extent of our dissatisfaction will resonate.”

Meanwhile, an official at another leading secondary school in East Trinidad said many of his students are depressed as they lamented the poor grades they received.

He said based on his interaction with students in the classroom prior to the COVID-19 lock-down in March, many of them had been on track to receive scholarships but this was not the case following the results.

One father told Guardian Media that he has been trying to console his daughter who received three’s and four’s.

“I have been trying to tell her not to worry, but she is sad and depressed now. This was a child who had all A profiles for CAPE 1 and had gotten accepted to medical school in Ireland.”

He said she and several other classmates were pursuing medicine and were scheduled to leave T&T next week for university.

He said all arrangements, including airfare and accommodation, had been booked.

He said based on the latest results, his daughter had now been rejected.

MOE: We have spoken to CXC

Responding to the calls for action, Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly said the Ministry spoke to CXC on the matter.

Describing the situation as regrettable in a release yesterday, Gadsby-Dolly said: “Especially for the students involved, who are already stressed in this year of the pandemic.”

Referring to the petition circling the region which includes 23,000 candidates in T&T and over 60,000 students in Jamaica, the minister said while the online regional petition gathering 12,000 signatures can be understood contextually, “no institution can reasonably use that as a basis for review of all grades.”

She added: “It does, however, raise awareness of the matter and indicate to CXC that this issue must be addressed to put to rest troubling questions and concerns that are shared across the region.”

On the issue of SBA scores, Gadsby-Dolly said they are scored by individual class teachers and these scores are submitted to CXC for moderation, which meant that what was submitted by the school may not be the actual score recorded by CXC for the student and used to determine their overall grade.

She promised that a statement by CXC would be forthcoming, adding: “We in T&T eagerly await their elucidation of the complex issues surrounding this matter, even as we advise schools and individuals to follow the established procedures to make the necessary queries.

“The MOE will take all required steps to ensure that this issue is adequately addressed.”

Opposition wants urgent query

Shadow minister for education, Tabaquite MP Anita Haynes yesterday called on Gadsby-Dolly to launch an urgent query into the grading discrepancies.

In a statement, she said: “Concerned students, parents, teachers and school administrators have reached out to me to highlight the fact that a significant number of students have received grades that did not match their profiles, that is, students with all As in their profile received grades V and VI.”

Haynes added: “In some instances, entire classes received ‘ungraded’ and several others received grades not consistent with their historical performances. Students with near-perfect Internal Assessments received grades IV and V.

“While it is customary to receive reports of these irregularities from a few students, the numbers have been significantly higher this year, with hundreds of reports of these irregularities.”

Haynes said both Ministers of Education needed to take this issue seriously and act now.