(CMC)— The Caribbean Union of Teachers (CUT) says it is “deeply concerned’ at the decision taken by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD) on Education earlier this month that regional students will sit the Caribbean Examinations Council-administered exams in July.
The COHSOD meeting, which was held virtually and chaired by the Antigua and Barbuda Education Minister Michael Browne, said that the Barbados-based CXC would be setting exams for students in the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) and the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE).
But in a statement, the CUT said it was calling on 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.
CUT said it had written to the CXC Registrar in April indicating that its membership were “vehemently opposed to the administration of the CXC examinations any time before September 2020.
The letter had outlines several reasons including health and safety issues, the need for greater engagement on the format of the examination as well as the validity issues associated with the proposed format of the examination.
The CUT had also pointed to the technological capacity and infrastructural limitations of many of the education institutions throughout the region also noting the uncertainty as it relates to the coronavirus (COVID-19) in the region.
“We are not confident that the governments of the region have demonstrated the level of preparedness for the planned reopening of schools in order to create a safe environment for students and teachers to effectively operate.
“We are aware that there are governments in the region who have reopened schools and some will in short order. We consider such a move to be reckless unless the requisite health provisions have been made,” the CUT said, adding “we must understand that teaching and learning must take place in an environment that is conducive for such activities”.
It said that the health and well-being of students and teachers must take precedence over all other consideration at this time.
“Undoubtedly, COVID-19 has dramatically impacted our local, regional, and international psyche as well as our accustomed ways of business transactions. Importantly, the education sector has not been spared from the impact and it behoves all stakeholders to agree on mitigation measures that are proportionate, coherent, and inclusive.
“If nothing else, the crisis of COVID-19 has clearly identified glaring inadequacies, comorbidities if you will, in the region’s educational system and their ability to absorb pandemic shock. But it has also presented an excellent opportunity to equip educational administration with the policies and procedures, to not only survive but also maintain quality and equity in education,” the grouping representing teachers in the region added.
It said, further, there is no evidence of an action plan by ministries of education in the region which suggests that they have adopted any approved set of standards specific to the reopening of school.
“CUT firmly believes that the September timeline for sitting the examinations would allow for regional governments and educational administrations to adopt and implement some benchmark protocols”.
It said that those protocols have been established by Education International and the CUT subscribes to those guidelines, which include implementing the necessary protocols that will safeguard the health and well-being of all stakeholders; establish the infrastructure that will allow for new normal operations in all education communities namely; enhanced hygiene and cleaning practices and equipment in addition to enabling access as well as personal protective equipment.
The protocols also call for the engagement of teachers and their unions in designing/determining the pedagogies, digital tools and platforms and that can be used to continue education during the temporary school closures as well as provide government secured Information communication technology and digital technologies that will maintain students’ engagement in times of crisis as well as requisite training for teachers in the new normal modalities.