The Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers’ Association (TTUTA) will ask Minister of Education Anthony Garcia to propose the postponement of the CSEC/Cape examinations until no earlier than four weeks after the re-commencement of school in September.
The decision was taken at a TTUTA General Council meeting, which was held virtually on Friday 15 May, and will be relayed to Garcia at his next summit with the union.
TTUTA’s declaration, which was passed with 29 votes for, none against and two abstentions, sees Trinidad and Tobago teachers mirror the position adopted by their colleagues in Jamaica and Barbados, who also called on CXC to delay the examinations due to disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
TTUTA, which is headed by president Antonia Tekah-De Freitas, declared that:
“Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, schools have been closed for the last eight weeks and there has been extreme difficulty with the completion of SBAs (school based assessments) and IAs (internal assessments)… and arrangements need to be in place to ensure the health and safety of students and teachers.
“A four week interaction between students and teachers is necessary to ensure readiness for the examinations to promote a level playing field.
“TTUTA is against the administration of the CSEC and CAPE examinations in July 2020. The exams should be administered no less than four weeks after the re-opening of school, to allow for students to complete the SBAs/IAs and be in a state of readiness for the examinations.”
Members of the TTUTA general council stressed that they were unwilling to return to their respective schools until they were properly sanitised and approved by the Ministry of Health; and when health guidelines could be implemented to ensure maximum protection for all school workers.
Teachers explained too that an inability to connect with some students—due to lack of connectivity and access to devices—and the difficulty in uploading portfolios in subjects like technical drawing from regular devices, made the task of completing SBAs and IAs near impossible.
Students doing the Caribbean Vocational Qualifications (CVQ) were also unable to complete their practicals and assignments—in part because the relevant CXC agency in Jamaica was closed and could not coordinate the internal verification process, and because several local organisations that normally accommodate students were closed due to public health regulations.
There was concern too that CXC’s proposal for students to be tested on Paper I (multiple choice), SBAs and IAs was inadequate as ‘while Paper I was easier to mark, the true test of students’ knowledge and application came with Paper II’.
TTUTA Council members did vote unanimously to return to school on 1 September and for the staging of SEA examinations in October, with certain provisos.
Apart from the blessing of the Ministry of Health and proper sanitisation, teachers also felt that ‘students who [are] preparing for the SEA should receive counselling and support as part of the preparatory activities before the examination’. This point, according to officials, has already been raised with Garcia.
Teachers also mandated TTUTA to ‘provide to the Ministry of Education guidelines to ensure health and safety of primary level students’ which should include ‘measures to ensure social distancing, supervision of students outside of contact hours and measures to ensure sanitation and cleanliness’.