Barbados;Bradshaw proposes raft of changes to CXC exams, governance

Barbados has urged the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) to change the content and delivery of its curriculum and modify the way it is governed.

The proposal was among several presented by Minister of Education Santia Bradshaw on Tuesday during an inaugural CXC Ministerial Summit on education assessment.

Bradshaw, who was one of the regional education ministers who participated in the virtual meeting, suggested that CXC review its curriculum where necessary, recognising that it is not business as usual.

“This should be done in a manner that does not compromise the quality of instruction and learning but promotes greater levels of focus and understanding,” the minister said.

She argued that the ultimate aim should be to enhance students’ ability to grasp concepts within a shorter time frame since, in many instances, contact time online has had to be shortened.

“Revisions to the curriculum content should also consider alternative ways to deliver the material when practical teaching and demonstrations are not possible due to COVID-19,” she said.

As it relates to curriculum delivery, the education minister said CXC must be ever mindful of the fact that teachers are critical to this process and as such, it is imperative that they continue to be involved at every stage of curriculum development.

Bradshaw told the CXC Summit: “It is absolutely necessary for them to be familiar with curricula and be apprised, in a timely manner, of any revisions.

“The situation that obtains presently with teachers not knowing the timing, content and structure of exams is simply unacceptable. Teachers need to be aware of broad topics for examination, the number of school-based assessments required and the format for exams in 2022.

“They need to be provided with opportune feedback from subject and moderation reports to inform teaching and the fulfilment of SBA requirements. And while the 2022 examination may seem far away, teachers needed to plan their instruction for delivery from the September of the 2021-2022 academic year.

“In addition to timely communication of curriculum content, CXC can utilize multimodal approaches to communicate with teachers.

“Given that schools have several layers of management that receive amendments to the curriculum before the information reaches the teachers, consideration can also be given to engaging the teachers directly.

“In relation to enhancing assessment practices during the COVID19 pandemic, she said the decision taken by CXC to return to the moderation of all Schools Based Assessments (SBAs) rather than just a sample is seen as a step – albeit small – in a positive direction.

“Once teachers receive timely feedback on any discrepancies and areas of concern arising from the moderation process, this step has the potential to assist teachers in designing suitable assessments, determining suitable assessment criteria and applying such criteria consistently.

“Another benefit to be derived from the move of moderating all SBAs is that if the COVID-19 pandemic or any unforeseen event prevents the writing of all papers, there is at least one paper that can contribute to the pro-rating of candidates’ grades without the concern of simply relying on the teachers’ scores.”

She said should the council be forced to return to a sampling of SBAs due to financial challenges, it is recommended that these COVID times be used by CXC to stage virtual sessions, by subject, designed to share the lessons learnt from the moderation process and to otherwise strengthen the ability of teachers to conduct assessments that align with CXC’s expectations.

She said: “In terms of financial feasibility, CXC’s plan to move to e-assessment has great potential in this area as considerable sums are saved from not having to print, package and transport scripts.

“Despite the general support for the extension of e-assessment as a way of enhancing assessment during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, I suggest that provision be made to enable students to physically write rough notes as they would have done during traditional examinations.

“This suggestion is being made on behalf of students who for years were taught to underline salient points and make notes as they attempted questions but are now faced with a computer screen only. The cost of CXC having to provide just one sheet of blank paper for each student pales in comparison to the cost of printing an entire script. It is therefore hoped that this suggestion can be implemented for the next round of e-assessments.”

Education Minister Bradshaw also made a case for vulnerable students.

She appealed for a careful evaluation of all the challenges of e-assessment to ensure readiness across the region.

‘As a region, we are in a better position than we were before but there is still a need to ensure that vulnerable groups of students are not disadvantaged by any extensions to e-assessment. CXC needs to be aware of the differences in access to resources, levels of development, geography and stages of the pandemic across the region,” she said.

Bradshaw also drew attention to the manner in which CXC is governed.

“In Barbados, for example, there is a call for CXC to be regulated by a body similar to the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (OFQUAL) which is the regulatory body for examinations offered by Cambridge in the United Kingdom.

“It is anticipated that such a body would give the necessary attention to monitoring and evaluation thereby resulting in an enhanced ability by the CXC to deliver the types of outputs and outcomes desired by stakeholders.  It will also enhance CXC’s level of recognition as an examination body on the global front,” the Minister of Education suggested.

She acknowledged that changes to CXC’s governance structure as a means of improving stakeholder satisfaction would take time.

“In the interim, therefore, it is suggested that CXC invests some of its savings, for example, those arising from more widespread e-assessments, to provide a dedicated platform for dealing with queries in a timely manner,” she added.

The minister said she hoped that the “myriad” suggestions made would not “simply” be heard but used as the basis for reflection and action.

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