Antonia De Freitas, President of the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers' Association (TTUTA).

Despite the concerns raised by education stakeholders who continue to call for a postponement of July’s Caribbean Secondary Entrance Certificate (CSEC) and Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations (CAPE), the Ministry of Education says it will abide by the decision of the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) for it to go on as scheduled.

However, the National Parent Teacher Association (NPTA) says if the ministry fails to reconsider this decision, they are ready to employ legal strategies to protect the rights of the children which they claim are currently being violated.

In separate telephone interviews yesterday, the heads of the T&T Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) and the NPTA agreed that the local student population needed more time to complete their School-Based Assessments (SBA’s) and Internal Assessments (IA’s) which will form part of the final grade.

TTUTA president Antonia Tekah-De Freitas said the decision was agreed upon by TTUTA’s General Council last Friday, while NPTA’s acting president Clarence Mendoza said their executive had arrived at the decision following discussions with both parents and students on the way forward.

The TTUTA head said, “Under normal circumstances, the SBA’s and IA’s would have been completed already and the sample marks uploaded to CXC. However, given the closure, a number of students were unable to complete them and this is happening across the region which is why CXC pushed back the deadline for the submission of marks to June 30.”

Referring to CXC’s announcement that the marks from the Paper One which is multiple choice and the SBA’s/IA’s will be used to collate final grades, Tekah-De Freitas claimed, “We are running into problems because the students who have not finished the SBA’s/IA’s cannot be awarded a final mark if they have not finished.”

Indicating they were still in talks with the MoE regarding the laptop programme for teachers which would assist in the grading process and uploading of marks to CXC, Tekah-De Freitas said in the area of technical drawing, teachers needed to go to their respective schools to complete this part of the process.

Referencing the absence of Paper Two which is the long-answer paper from the traditional exam setting, she explained, “In the absence of this, you have to wonder about the validity of the examination and award a true grade reflective of the student’s competencies and skills.”

“TTUTA’s call… the call across the region is that we look to retain the traditional format.”

Examining the psychological impact the COVID-19 virus would have had on students, Tekah-De Freitas said, “For two years, students would have been preparing for exams of a particular format and now you come and change that midway and expect them to adapt… so because of these factors where students and teachers need to interact to have marks and portfolios finalised, the fact that we have the format being changed and is not necessarily going to test all students knowledge and competencies, and the fact that we have SBA’s and IA’s incomplete, that is why TTUTA’s General Council took that decision.”

She said TTUTA intends to communicate their position to both CXC and the Caribbean Union of Teachers (CUT).

She said any decision to postpone the exams for a few more months or even a year “will have to be a regional decision considering all of the implications.”

The NPTA’s acting head Clarence Mendoza said, “We are asking that CAPE and CSEC be suspended or postponed and not take place in the month of July.”

He claimed if the exams went on as is being proposed, a lot of students would be disadvantaged.

Mendoza added, “We are asking that those exams take place at a later date. There is no rush to have it now because when the results come, it will be of no use to our students to apply for universities until the month of January.”

He also expressed concerns about incomplete SBA’s and IA’s.

Mendoza said if the MoE and CXC failed to consider the request for a postponement or suspension, “We will look at our legal options because we cannot rush the students. No one has spoken to the students.”

“Form Six students are very despondent right now and no one is speaking to them right now but the NPTA and their parents. They have been part of our weekly panel discussions and they are very disgruntled about the rush and being unable to complete their part of the bargain, so they are also asking for a cancellation of the exam to a later date.”

In response to these concerns yesterday, Education Minister Anthony Garcia said CXC was responsible for administering regional examinations and following a meeting with CARICOM education officials a few weeks ago, “We have to respect the fact that it is a regional examination body and we have to abide by the decisions of the regional bodies.”

Garcia added, “It was the view of Cabinet that these exams should be held in the month of June/July.”

“I had taken a note to Cabinet with respect to the preferences that were presented to us by CXC and Cabinet agreed with the one to hold the exams in June/July.”