Jamaica's Minister of Education Karl Samuda. (JIS)
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Kingston – Jamaica has reversed an earlier decision and will now allow students to write the Barbados-based Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) exams in July.
“It takes about a couple of weeks, into August, to complete it, but the process will start on the 27th of July and the question of social distance can be accommodated quite easily, because all the other children are out of school and it will be quite convenient,” said Karl Samuda, the minister with portfolio responsibility for education.
He told a virtual news conference on Monday night that the students will sit the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC), and Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) papers.
Samuda said there were strong arguments for Jamaican students not to take the exams at this time, but the decision was made after wide consultations.
He said, despite lingering concerns, it was clear that “the vast majority of those present in the meeting preferred us to go forward rather than delay the exams".
“We will now go about the business of making the logistical arrangements so that no one who is taking this exam, beyond the challenges that they have already had, will in any way be compromised,” added Samuda.
Earlier this month, Jamaica had disagreed with a decision taken by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD) on Education that regional students will sit the CXC-administered exams in July.
The decision that was criticised by the Jamaica Teachers’ Association, whose president, Owen Speid, castigated CXC for the July exam date, despite what he said was the danger of COVID-19.
The Caribbean Union of Teachers (CUT), in a statement, called Caribbean governments “to be mindful not to rush the process for the reopening of schools to facilitate the writing of CXC Examinations, unless they have instituted all measures outlined by the reopening of school protocol”.
The CUT said that it believes the “unfortunate” decision taken by COHSOD places the lives of thousands of students and teachers at risk, as all the issues surrounding the administering of the examinations have not been addressed.
But Samuda told reporters that some schools were ready for the exams and others were not.
He said that the education authorities would do their best “to ensure that we facilitate our students in the best possible way to give the best chance to maximise their potential as they go forward” and that the exams will be done in two modalities — via the Internet and paper-based.
He said the Government took the decision after he spoke with CXC officials.
“I put the case to them that we just need a little more time and they could appreciate that, and I am very happy to say that they accommodated us, perhaps not in whole but in part,” Samuda said, adding “ I am very happy that we have finalised the arrangement, and I think . . . it might be the best thing to get it behind us and move on to a new year and, I hope, new horizons”. (CMC)