July 27 start date for CXC exams
By Lynford Simpson
July 27 is the start date for the region’s nearly 75,000 students sitting the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) exams which have been delayed due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
In normal times, the exams run from late May into June with results made available in August. However, this year's schedule was upended as schools were ordered closed throughout the region as governments took steps to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Minister with responsibility for education in Jamaica, Karl Samuda, made the announcement of the start date as he addressed a COVID-19 press conference at Jamaica House on Monday.
He disclosed that the Ministry of Education had pushed back after CXC suggested that the exams be held in the early part of July. He said the earlier date was rejected following consultations with the Ministry of Health and Wellness.
Samuda said the ministry was also cognizant of the fact that students would have been placed at a disadvantage having been outside the conventional classroom setting for several months. And, he said there were differing views among principals and teachers about whether, and when, the exams should take place.
Samuda once more acknowledged that the internet service across the country, and in particular in some communities, was inadequate but insisted that the exams must take place.
“One thing is quite clear, we’re going into these exams and we’re not entirely ready for these exams in certain schools. In other schools (we are) very ready,” said Samuda.
“We will (begin to) write the CXC on the 27th of July.
“Starting on the 27th, it takes a couple of weeks into August to complete it but the process will start on the 27th. The question of social distance, it can be accommodated quite easily because all the other children are out of school…we will get through quite well,” Samuda added.
The education minister said the Ministry will now go about the business of making the logistical arrangements “So that no child taking these exams beyond the challenges they have already encountered will be compromised”.
“We will do our best to facilitate our students to write these exams and to maximise their potential going forward,” he stated. He added that “It is a critical turning point in our education system…this setback will only strengthen the process to make us more conscious of what is to be done and how quickly we have to get it done”.
The exams are going forward despite concerns raised by the National Secondary Students' Council (NSSC), which had appealed to the Jamaican government for a postponement.
The council in a statement recently said it was aware of the urgency and importance of hosting the examinations but said it did not believe it was the safest decision.
Specifically, the NSSC said administering the exams in July would pose major health risks, which is a direct breach of the basic human right to safety, as the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being.
“Should the exams be hosted at the proposed time, this right will significantly be breached as it requires students to leave their homes, which significantly increases their risk of contracting or being exposed to the COVID-19 virus, all in a bid to sit an examination,” the council argued.
The NSSC had also raised transportation issues, and the fact that students with an unreliable internet service have been placed at a distinct disadvantage.
It also pointed to the psychological concerns of students and highlighted that anxiety and depression had increased among students and should not be ignored.