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…says no consultations were held with Guyana on recent statement
Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand said on Tuesday that while Guyana will support education changes at the level of the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) that benefit its students, the recent statement of UNICEF’s Guyana representative does not necessarily represent the sentiments of Guyana’s Education Ministry.
In a statement on Monday, UNICEF registered its objection to plans by CXC to proceed with the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) and the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) for students as currently designed.
UNICEF called on CXC and the Ministers of Education to make necessary adjustments to the content and administration of the exams in line with recommendations provided by the Caribbean Union of Teachers (CUT). Such a move, UNICEF said, will ensure that the region’s students are not further disadvantaged.
“We do recognize the efforts already made by the CXC in reducing certain requirements for these examinations and making concessions such as providing the topics for the long answer paper (Paper 2) five weeks prior to the commencement of the exams, reducing requirements for the SBAs and extending submission dates for some subjects, facilitating deferments to 2022 if students meet specific criteria, and the currently discussed further postponement of the examination date. However, there are still a number of issues which require more substantial changes and flexibility. For example, no change has been made on the multiple-choice paper (Paper 1) which will still cover the entire syllabus, and no clear structure was shared as to how those students who meet deferral requirements and choose to defer will be supported to sit the exams at a later date in 2022,” UNICEF explained.
Signing on to this statement was the UNICEF individual who represents Guyana, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago. However, at an event on Tuesday, Minister Manickchand said that Guyana was not consulted on the position.
“What they’re asking for is good, that we make sure we have psychosocial support for children who are writing the exams, that we make sure we support kids in every way. Unfortunately, the Ministry of Education, Government of Guyana, was not consulted about the statement. If we were we would have been able to offer some insight into what’s being done here,” she said.
Manickchand stated that the Ministry of Education has been in communication with CXC about its decisions and has shared Guyana’s position, specific to the country. She said that when a position is shared from Guyana to CXC it comes following consultation with students, parents and teachers and Guyana robustly represents those positions.
Furthermore, Manickchand said that while CXC has many faults, which Guyana has highlighted as a country, the Council did consult countries in the region prior to its decisions which are oftentimes decided upon by a vote.
“We have been clear here in Guyana that we would support anything our children want and our teachers think would be best for them…most of our students hold the view that they want the exams written this year. I know there is a view that it should be postponed to January 2022 [but] our kids do not want that,” the Education Minister said.
“We’re not insensitive to what else is happening in the Caribbean but our students have been in school from October last year…our SBA’s are in order and ready…so we may have different views and that’s why I said while the UNICEF representative from Guyana — who’s also responsible to Trinidad and Suriname — has signed that statement, [it] does not necessarily reflect what we in the Ministry feel, but we support anything that supports children.”
In its letter to CXC, UNICEF said that the pandemic has further exacerbated the gaps in preparedness amongst the most disadvantaged students. It said too that natural disasters such as the recent eruption of the La Soufrière volcano in St- Vincent have had an additional negative impact on the learning of thousands of students.
UNICEF called on CXC to ensure an equitable approach to the critical examinations which takes into account the unequal access to learning due to the digital divide, the reduced curriculum coverage, and the high psycho-emotional stress, among other consequences of the prolonged school closure due to the pandemic.
As recommended by CUT, it said Paper 1 should only test rationalized topics that are tested in Paper 2 and not the entire syllabi as the said syllabi would not have been completed. Further, it said that CXC should remove all hurdles in Paper 2 including compulsory questions and ensure that no one question item should test two or more content areas.