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The School Based Assessment – time for a review

The School Based Assessment –  time for a review

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Our grade six pupils, almost 1800 of them, will write their primary school exit exams (the CPEA) later this week, joining our fifth formers and those at the community college who are already deep in their own terminal examinations — the CSEC and CAPE examinations respectively. For the children involved and their parents, this is a most stressful time, as a child’s performance in these tests largely determines his or her progression to the next stage of the educational journey.

The Caribbean Primary Exit Assessment (CPEA), the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) and the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) are all administered by the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC), a regional examinations body which was established almost 50 years ago.

Most, if not all, of the subjects examined by the Council now include a school based assessment (SBA) component which was introduced in an effort to provide a more reliable assessment of the students, based on their work over a period of time, rather than on their performance on a single examination day. There are other noteworthy benefits of SBAs including the promotion of teamwork, building research skills, and the practical application of concepts taught in class.

While the CXC’s SBA has received high commendation from examination bodies across the world, increasingly, here at home, the SBA is becoming a source of consternation among teachers, parents, and the students themselves.

Although SBAs are supposed to be considered an integrated part of the continuous assessment which is normally done in every classroom, the SBAs are increasingly being viewed as a burden which adds to the workload of teachers, students, and yes, their parents.

Today, with almost every subject examined by the CXC having an SBA component, if a student at the CSEC level is writing, say 12 subjects, completing the many project reports can be challenging.

It is now an open secret that many SBA projects are recycled, or are not done by the students they are designed to assess. Instead they are done by parents (or other adults), who decide to “help” when they see how overwhelmed their children are, and in their effort to ensure that their children get top grades.

Clearly, this defeats the purpose for which the SBA was introduced. Teachers too are pushing back against the increased workload, with some saying they will not mark SBAs this year, unless they are compensated by the CXC for so doing.

It is time for the CXC to go back to the drawing board to examine whether the benefits derived from the SBA as an assessment tool outweigh the challenges which have arisen. The grades awarded to students should reflect 100 per cent of their own work, not 90 per cent or 80 per cent.

Similarly, if what CXC requires of teachers in grading SBAs is not closely aligned to the assessment they conduct in the normal course of teaching, the call for payment may not be unjustified.

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