Today’s decision by the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) to review grades for the 2020 CSEC and CAPE exams, comes as legal pressure has mounted on the regional examinations body.
In addition to calls from students, parents and Ministries of Education across the region, lawyers of at least two clients in Trinidad and Tobago have written to CXC Chairman Sir Hilary Beckles, requesting that a special meeting of the Council be called to discuss the concerns.
Among them are the methodology or algorithm used to calculate the final overall grades for all subjects and the school based assessments (SBAs) for all subjects; the respective weights accorded to the external assessment and the SBAs for the 2020 CSEC and CAPE subjects; and a suspension of the examination regulations, including the time limits for any review and queries, pending a full audit of the process leading up to the award of all final marks in the 2020 exams by an independent, external auditing firm appointed by the Council.
“Chairman, this respectful demand is based on the inescapable conclusion that the ‘new’ processes utilised by CXC for the 2020 CAPE and CSEC exams were flawed,” noted the correspondence from the lawyers, dated September 28, 2020 and signed by attorney-at-law Darrell Allahar.
“You would readily agree that these are critical issues that require urgent clarification, audit and resolution before any final grades are issued. The reputation and standing of CXC would be irreparably destroyed if this widespread discontent is not treated at the highest level of the Council. Given your registrar’s unfortunate posture, ‘the tail cannot wag the dog’,” it said.
The letter said if the request for the special meeting was not met, the members of the Council would be urging their governments to “collaborate with its regional counterparts to urgently convene such a meeting of the Council”.
“For too long, CXC has operated without accountability and transparency, immune from judicial review and as a virtual monopoly, in disregard of the rights of students who are ultimately the consumers of its certification services,” Allahar wrote.
“It is insulting that the CXC registrar has refused to give our Ministry of Education any information on the matriculation of the SBAs until after reviews are conducted, encouraging students to instead use the expensive review process,” he added.
The lawyers contended that to ask students, in the current challenging economic circumstances, to come up with the required funds for a review is “a farce and is extremely irresponsible and arrogant”.
“In all the circumstances, and without prejudice to our client’s right to approach the Caribbean Court of Justice for appropriate relief, we trust that you would now act responsibly, despite the unfortunate statements of your registrar, and facilitate the urgent intervention by the governments of the region into the affairs of the Caribbean Examinations Council, bearing in mind that those governments contribute in no small way towards financing the operations of your institution,” the letter continued.Due to the provisions of the CXC Act, Chapter 17:07, of Trinidad and Tobago, the CXC is immune from legal action in that jurisdiction.
Allahar said that “may well account for the belligerent posture and lack of transparency” displayed by the registrar at a recent press conference. During a media briefing last Friday, while students in Barbados held a peaceful protest, CXC registrar and chief executive officer Dr Wayne Wesley strongly defended the organisation’s grading system.
He said then that the CXC had done a good job of grading papers, and insisted that it was yet to receive any formal complaints from students.
In an about turn late this evening, however, Sir Hilary announced that the CXC board would conduct an independent review, following a meeting between Wesley and regional Ministers of Education to discuss the concerns.