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Guyana’s Queen’s College threatens to leave CXC, take legal action over alleged botched results

Last Updated on Thursday, 24 September 2020, 14:49 by Denis Chabrol

A number of Queen’s College students protesting outside the Examinations Division of the Ministry of Education located in the school’s compound.

Two of Guyana’s leading secondary schools on Thursday joined others across the Caribbean in condemning the apparent poor grading of students at the 2020 Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) and Caribbean Advanced Proficiency (CAPE) examinations, with Queen’s College already threatening legal action and possibly lobbying for withdrawal from the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC).

“If CXC does not bend, we will petition- and we plan to do so through the Ministry of Education- to remove Guyana from the Council from writing the CXC examination. There are other examination bodies and we can very well carry our business there,” The Principal of Queen’s College, Jackie Benn said in referring to one of the decisions made at a meeting Wednesday night.

Just under 100 Queen’s College students, in the presence of a number of teachers and parents, chanted “Fix those grades, fix those grades” outside the Examinations Division of the Ministry of Education, call on on the CXC to withdraw the results and regrades and award marks  that were actually earned.

Ms. Benn said if the Barbados-headquartered CXC does not conduct a thorough review of all of the examination grades, her publicly-funded institution would be moving to the High Court to block the declaration of the final results. “We have already consulted a lawyer. Our intention is to ensure that we file an injunction to block the declaration of the results,” she said to loud applause from students.

Ms. Benn also endorsed calls for Guyana to pull out of CXC and take examinations from other boards. Guyana and most other Caribbean countries have over the decades switched from the University of London’s General Certificate of Education to CXC examinations.

Internal Examinations Coordinator at Queen’s College, Samantha Liverpool said she has already raised the possibility of bringing in another examinations board. “We believe that because  we are paying, we need to get service so CXC we are your customers…and I already raised it with the Ministry (of Education) that we need a competition for CXC,” she said.  She said the Principal, teachers, students and old students association are in solidarity.

This position was endorsed by Mr. Kwabina Griffith, the father of one of the affected students. Noting that education delivery and certification was operating in a free market system, he warned CXC against taking the threats to withdraw from the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) body. “We are customers. This is a capitalist world and if we do not like the service that we are getting, we will go somewhere else,” he said.

Ms. Liverpool said over 80 percent of questions have been repeated on the latest examination papers. “When I look at a student, who would have gained over 95 percent in an SBA (School-Based Assessment), looking at a paper where over 90 percent of the questions came back, please don’t tell me a Queen’s College student failed that exam. Our students at the College are accustomed to very challenging examinations and they all can attest to that. They believe that our exam here is two times harder than the exam they receive externally and we have proven that for many years,” she said.

Ms. Liverpool said, in light of the numerous queries about the multiple choice questions, she has asked for the marking scheme, the weighting of Paper Ones against the Paper Twos but so far she was awaiting a response. She complained that many students have fallen into depression and so the burden was now on CXC to “prove to us where we went wrong” by going back to the scripts, marking and moderation and reveal what has happened.

President of the Bishops High School Old Students’ Association, Kadeem J. Davis said his organisation was demanding that CXC issue a “clear statement” on the evaluation methodology and conduct an immediate and thorough review of the exam results. “Without the shadow of a doubt, we know that once this is done, they will have to ensure a regrading because we know it, the students know it, everyone knows it,” he said.

Queen’s College pays more than GYD$15 million annually to CXC.

The Ministry of Education says it  is registering vehemently with the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC), its dissatisfaction with the apparent poor grading of students at the 2020 CSEC and CAPE examinations.

The Ministry of Education says it is concerned that there seems to be discrepancies with the grades that were awarded in particular subject areas to students across the country. Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand has since reportedly spoken to the Registrar of CXC and has expressed her concerns.  The Ministry of Education says Ms. Manickchand’s conversation will be followed up by a letter addressing the many complaints and a demand to have them addressed.

The complaints by students, parents and teachers, backed by statistics include discrepancies in teachers’ projected grades and CXC final awards being significant in the results of many students.

The Education Ministry says teachers and students are concerned that maximum SBA scores have been attained by students who believe strongly that they answered the multiple-choice questions correctly and yet they received poor grades. 

They note that many questions were repeated from previous years.  The Education Ministry says nothing has changed in schools which have a track record of high performance but have now been awarded poor grades at this year’s CSEC and CAPE results. 

Students in Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Jamaica,  St. Lucia, and Trinidad and Tobago have voiced similar concerns.

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September 2020