UNICEF calls for CXC to further adjust exams amid ongoing crisis


The United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) says it is concerned over the decision of the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) to maintain the upcoming Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) and the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) for students as currently designed.

In a statement on Monday, UNICEF called for CXC and regional Ministers of Education to make adjustments to the content and administration of these exams, in line with recommendations provided by the Caribbean Union of Teachers (CUT) to ensure that the region’s students are not further disadvantaged.

The UN agency says that while it recognises efforts already made by CXC, it believes that are still a number of issues which require more substantial changes and flexibility.

It cited, among other things, that 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 is arguing that the current pandemic context has further exacerbated the gaps in preparedness among the most disadvantaged students.

This year, there is a higher risk of those students in vulnerable conditions never sitting the exams, it is contending.

The agency is asserting that this could seriously affect not only their further education at higher secondary or tertiary levels, but their future.

UNICEF wants education ministers to request CXC to adjust the CSEC and CAPE exams and to further simplify the content and the methodology of the exam across all subjects and adapt the timeline to the challenges currently faced by the students to ensure equitable accessibility and participation for every student.

Here are some of UNICEF’s recommendations

The UN agency states, as per the CUT recommendations, that:

I) Paper 1 should only test rationalised topics that are tested in Paper 2 and not the entire syllabi as the said syllabi would not have been completed.

ii) For Paper 2, remove all hurdles including compulsory questions and ensure that no one question item should test two or more content areas.

iii) Extend the start of the examination by three weeks and release the rationalised board topics immediately to students and teachers in order to facilitate effective preparation.

Additionally, UNICEF also wants education ministers to:

  • Expand and intensify the provision of mental health and psycho-social support for children as they prepare for the exams. Children who are participating in exams in 2021, regardless of the form the exam takes, should be provided with support to ensure they are mentally prepared and have the tools to deal with the added stress of being examined at this time.
  • Confirm placement in schools for children who defer sitting exit exams (school completion) to next year. Governments should guarantee that all children who decide to defer the sitting of exams to 2022 will automatically continue to be registered at their current schools.
  • Offset any financial costs for deferral to 2022. Where a student defers his/her exams to 2022, provisions should be made to ensure financial costs related to schooling are minimised. Services for children who benefited from social protection programmes for which their eligibility is based on age or school attendance, which would have ended in 2021, should be continued.

• Clarify how the prevalence of COVID-19 cases will be taken into consideration given the variation among the countries and within larger countries such as Jamaica and Guyana.

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