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Caribbean Union of Teachers says July CXCs Puts Students and Teachers at Risk

The Caribbean Union of Teachers (CUT)  said it is deeply concerned about the decision taken by the Council for Human and Social Development COHSOD at a meeting on May 8, 2020 to support the Administration of the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) for the CSEC Examinations to be held in July, 2020 contrary to the recommended position of the CUT for the sitting to be held in September, 2020.

In an official statement, the CUT “believes that this unfortunate decision 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.

“In a letter from the CUT to the Registrar of CXC, dated April 16, 2020, the CUT informed the examination council that we had engaged our member units and they are vehemently opposed to the administration of the CXC Examinations any time before September 2020. The letter outlines several concerns including:
– Health and Safety issues
– The need for greater engagement on the format of the examination
– The validity issues associated with the proposed format of the examination.

– The technological capacity and infrastructural limitations of many of our Educational Institutions throughout the region
– The time that is required to provide psychological support

– The uncertainty as it relates to the COVID 19 in the region.

“In order to administer the examination, it is anticipated that educational institutions will be reopened. 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 re-opened schools and some will in short order. We consider such a move to be reckless unless the requisite health provisions have been made. We must understand that teaching and learning must take place in an environment that is conducive for such activities. 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 behooves 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.
“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 as outlined below. Those protocols have been established by Education International and the CUT subscribes to those guidelines.
a) Implement the necessary protocols that will safeguard the health and well-being of all stakeholders.
b) 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 to Personal Protective Equipment.
c) Formalize appropriate support structures through social and political dialogue, for vulnerable and affected members of educational communities to include counselling and funding.
d) Engage 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.
e) 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.
f) Educate and update members of the educational community about the new normal practices and procedures.
g) Use the expertise and professionalism of educators and their unions to determine and assess the impact of school closures and teaching, learning and student well-being and develop a framework for transitioning back to on-site teaching and learning.
“We are therefore calling on the governments of the region 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.”