Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly.

Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly says Government will stand by its commitment to cover the cost of all queries submitted to the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) by students who wrote this year’s Caribbean Secondary Entrance Certificate (CSEC) and Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Exams (CAPE).

Gadsby-Dolly’s promise came even as CXC has failed to respond to a request by regional ministers for a waiver of all fees surrounding such queries. The waiver request was made during a meeting with CXC on Monday, where education ministers from T&T, Jamaica, Barbados, Antigua and Guyana were present. CXC was given until Wednesday (October 21) to respond but had not up to yesterday.

But Gadsby-Dolly said Government was concerned about the future of the nation’s children’s and it was a priority to ensure neither their education nor their well-being was disrupted. This commitment could cost the State upwards of TT$680,000—a figure which could change in the coming days as the deadline for queries has now been extended to November 6.

Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley also announced recently that her government was paying the review fees for their students.

Gadsby-Dolly yesterday revealed that in 2019 – a total of 1,286 queries were received (502 for CSEC and 784 for CAPE), while a total of 5,677 queries had so far been received (2,352 for CSEC, 3,325 for CAPE) for this year’s exams.

Using a TT$6.78 to US$1 exchange rate – the overall cost for queries in 2019 would have amounted to US$38,580 (TT $261,572.40). This would have been covered by parents whose children submitted queries to CXC at a cost of US$30 per query last year.

However, following the large number of queries received this year, CXC agreed to reduce the cost per query to US$15. This year’s queries thus far amount to US$85,155 (TT$577,350.90)—a tab Government says it will absorb as many parents are unable to afford reviews.

Gadsby-Dolly also revealed that CXC has “committed to a remark, not just a recalculation” of the exam papers.

The review of the processes and modified approach to the exams this year, which was done by an Independent Review Team convened by CXC chairman Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, was released on Wednesday.

The review was ordered after calls by thousands of students across the region for a review following poor grades released on September 22.

The review team was asked to focus on specific areas, including the modified approach for the administration of the July/August CSEC and CAPE examinations; the moderation process applied to the School-Based Assessment (SBA); the grading process applied and the differences between the procedures implemented in 2020 and those in previous years.

According to the report, the team concluded that there were challenges in the communication process regarding the administration of the 2020 exams. The team said there was a crisis of expectations in 2020, as teachers normally predict student grades and believed their predictions would stand in this case. Better communication between CXC and schools would have helped to diminish the concerns expressed by teachers, students and parents, it noted.

The report also noted that the challenges described were most likely amplified by constraints imposed by COVID-19, which disrupted normal school routines and communities of learning in which most students feel secure. It also found that the grades received by some candidates in the CAPE and CSEC examins were lower in some subjects than expected and some students who are considered to be high performers received low grades.

The team sought answers on whether the adoption of the “modified approach” and the administration of the examination affected student performance; if full moderation of SBAs, when compared with random sampling in previous years, affected the results of candidates on Paper 3; if the adjusted grading model used for determining the profile and subject grades affected the overall subject grades of candidates; and whether any other factors may have affected the performance of candidates.