Though they faced unprecedented challenges caused first by Hurricane Irma and then by the Covid-19 pandemic, a total of 358 students in the Virgin Islands registered for at least one of 27 subjects in the 2020 CXC Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate examinations, and most of them proved successful. For 78 percent of the exams, students passed with grades of I to III. Fifteen students passed eight subjects, 20 students passed seven subjects, and 22 students passed six subjects (see sidebar). Overall, 15.6 percent of all exams were Grade I passes, 30 percent were Grade II passes, and 32.6 percent were Grade III passes.
“Given the fluid nature of the Covid-19 pandemic and its implications, our students persevered through many psychological, social and emotional challenges,” Deputy Premier Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley said in a Tuesday statement discussing the exam results. “This pandemic forced our students to deal with great uncertainty, adapt to new learning conditions, and adopt new studying practices.”
However, the news in the VI and regionally has been dampened by alleged discrepancies in some of the results, leading to an online petition launched in Barbados calling for the Caribbean Examinations Council to investigate.
The petition has since garnered more than 16,000 signatures, according to Change.org, the website hosting it. At least eight ministries of education from around the region are also calling on CXC administrators to revisit the results, according to Kaieteur News of Guyana.
Dr. Wheatley confirmed on Tuesday that his ministry plans to “participate in the review that will take place.”
He did not confirm, however, whether his ministry, parents or students had any particular concerns about the results.
In other countries, concerns began when some students noticed that the final grades they received from the CXC online portals did not seem to reflect their exam results.
“Among the discrepancies was the issue of students receiving ungraded marks despite sitting their exams and submitting their School Based Assessments in a timely fashion,” Kaieteur News reported.
Kimesha Harper, a student from Barbados, began the petition on Change.org alleging a mistake by the CXC “in regards to graded results distributed to candidates via the online student portals” and requesting “immediate reconsideration and review of ALL the results.”
However, during a virtual press conference last week, CXC officials said they were satisfied with the grading for this year’s exams, and maintained that it would only conduct grade reviews that are requested through its official process or via a ministry of education.
“We have agreed and will be working with ministers of education to provide clarity in a fulsome way [including] detailed reports on concerns being raised,” CXC Registrar Dr. Wayne Wesley said, according to Stabroek News.
In the VI, the 358 candidates amounted to 17 fewer than the 2019 total of 375, and one fewer subject than in 2019. Of this total, 280 attended public schools, 71 attended private schools, and seven were independent candidates.
Due to the pandemic, the format and scheduling of the CXC exams components changed this year, with students receiving grades based on “School Based Assessment” scores and the Paper One (Multiple Choice) examination in the majority of subjects, Dr. Wheatley said.
In addition, exams were delayed until July and August, meaning that students “sat exams well beyond the usual end of the school year, deeper into our hurricane season and even as we engaged in our emancipation holiday activities.”
According to Dr. Wheatley, the most popular subjects written were English A (232), mathematics (226), electronic document preparation and management (175), Human and Social Biology (142), and Principles of Business (117).
The minister said 217 students sat the mathematics exam, with 113, or 52 percent, receiving Grade I, II or III passes, which equals the regional average. Thirteen of those students received Grade I passes.
Additionally, 198 students sat the English A exam, with 181, or 91.4 percent, receiving Grades I, II or III passes, and 45 of those students, or 23 percent, receiving Grade I passes in English A.
“We were able to accommodate one transfer student from Guyana and one student from the Cayman Islands, who had to sit exams locally due to the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.
All centres continued to employ e-testing, which he said assisted in administering the exams.
The minister added that four students passed a combination of CSEC and a Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination subject (in this case, Biology Unit One) at a 100 percent pass rate.
Dr. Wheatley went on to explain that the rate of absenteeism or ungraded results was similar to that of 2019.
Of the 1,489 examinations registered for the July/August sitting, only 1,325 grades were awarded, meaning that 164 exam entries were not sat or graded, he explained.
“The modification in the SBA moderation processes due to the Covid-19 pandemic affected the ungraded results,” he said. “The Ministry of Education recognises this high number of absenteeism and ungraded results and aims to put further measures in place … to reduce these occurrences.”