THERE were mixed reactions to Wednesday’s announcement by the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) that it has put off regional exams by three weeks in consideration of all the issues raised by stakeholders regarding students’ preparation.

The exams will now start on Monday, May 23 and conclude on July 1. Results are projected to be released in late August or early September, a source of apprehension particularly for students hoping to matriculate to overseas tertiary institutions.

Over the months, educators were worried that in the context of all the setbacks in education caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic, students would not be ready to sit the exams. Jamaica’s Education Minister Fayval Williams had herself lobbied Caricom for the timeline to be pushed back.

Following the announcement by registrar and CXC CEO Dr Wayne Wesley at a regional press conference, head of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) Winston Smith said the union welcomed the postponement.

“Surely, the added time will allow our members the opportunity to further prepare our students to ensure a greater chance of success when they sit the various subjects. The JTA also commends the leadership of the Caribbean Union of Teachers (CUT) for responding to our call to have the matter treated with alacrity. Furthermore, we applaud our colleagues in the other islands who came out in support of this adjustment. The JTA will never sit by and allow any student to be disenfranchised, especially students of low socio-economic situations who are depending on this educational opportunity to advance themselves through quality education,” he told the Jamaica Observer.

He said the JTA is confident that tertiary institutions will respond positively to the change as well because more students may receive the required subjects to qualify them for entry into higher education.

But students who are hoping to matriculate to overseas tertiary schools are worried about the down-to-the-wire date for exam results.

President of the National Secondary Students’ Council, Jamaul Hall, said the push-back came as a pleasant surprise to his group, but although the majority of students welcomed the additional time to review, others are worried about the domino effect, given that by the end of August they would need to make a commitment to overseas institutions.

“We welcome the delay, [but] they (students) are concerned as to when the exams will finish in addition to when the grades will be released — because when CXC says they share a bulletin with international colleges, we are wondering how this is beneficial,” Hall told the Observer. “We appreciate all that they have done, but we are now concerned as to where we will be at the end of our exams in waiting for our grades to matriculate.”

The JTA president said the concern isn’t without some merit, but if students fail exams due to insufficient time to prepare then they would not have those opportunities anyway.

“We feel it’s better to be safe than sorry,” he stated.

Further, Dr Wesley acknowledged that the delay would result in some displacement for students who are advancing to tertiary studies, but CXC would endeavour to minimise that problem.

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