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CPEA is not about passing an exam – Chief Education Officer

CPEA is not about passing an exam – Chief Education Officer

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Come next Friday, May 16, a total of 1,948 grade six pupils here will sit the Caribbean Primary Exit Assessment (CPEA).{{more}}

The CPEA, a regional assessment offered by the Caribbean Examinations Council, is being written in St Vincent and the Grenadines for the first time. It replaces the Common Entrance Exam as a means to assess pupils at the grade six level.

The CPEA is an assessment of the key literacies (Mathematical, Language, Science) required by students exiting the primary school system.

Next week’s examinations will be written by 917 females and 1,031 males at 17 venues across the St Vincent and the Grenadines.

In an interview with SEARCHLIGHT on Wednesday, chief education officer Lou-Anne Gilchrist said that while everything is in place for next week’s examinations, the CPEA is not just about “passing an examination.”

“The CPEA is not about passing an exam. The common entrance was not about that either. It just became that way in people’s minds. But now, parents are seeing the value of spending two years preparing their children for entry into secondary school… We do hope the focus will no longer be on passing an exam, but on developing skills and competencies and the multiple literacies that are needed for moving into secondary schools,” Gilchrist stated.

Over the past few months, students completed a number of assessments with the hope of being successful at the new (CPEA).

The students were assessed both internally and externally, Gilchrist said. The internal assessment required students to produce a book report, a writing portfolio and a project. Marks awarded from students’ self-assessment and from teacher-made tests were also submitted as part of students’ internal assessment. Work from the internal assessment contributes 40 per cent of the students’ overall marks.

The other 60 per cent will be derived from the external assessment, which will be the CPEA examinations next Friday.

The final assessment for the CPEA will be conducted in the same manner in which the Common Entrance Exam was done.

Explaining the new system, Gilchrist stated that the pupils who place in the first 500 will be asked to make a choice of the secondary school they want to attend.

“These schools will fill up based on the student’s choices. If a student can’t get his first choice, then he gets his second or third,” Gilchrist indicated.

The children who place in the 501st position and lower will be placed based on their place of residence.

“So, a child who places first, even if he lives in Sandy Bay, as long as he chooses the St Vincent Grammar School, he will be placed there. The child who places 500th, even if he is from Kingstown and puts Sandy Bay as his first choice, he will be placed there,” she added.

However, she hastened to say that the child who places 500th, even if he puts Grammar School as his first choice, will not be able to attend that institution.

“Grammar School has just about 130 spaces available. Whether you get your choice or not, falling in the first 500 depends on the availability of spaces in the schools for persons with the school of choice option,” Gilchrist explained.

The Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) will still rank the students, but the Ministry of Education will place them.

For the three multiple-choice subject areas, the students will have a period of 75 minutes to complete their examinations.

“I must say that the officers have reported that some students have shown great improvement in terms of their self-esteem and their ability to read… What is important about the CPEA is that there is a process of providing constant feedback. The student produces work, the teacher uses a marking scheme, the teacher provides feedback and the student is graded for his/her ability to incorporate the teachers feedback into the subsequent piece of work,” she said.

This, Gilchrist explained, means that the child can do the work repeatedly until he/she attains a certain level of competence.

“It is not one shot on the day of the exam because they have their SBAs and the assigned tasks in the classroom are not one- shot events…,” she added.

Gilchrist said it is her hope that they will be able to use the CPEA methodology at all levels of the school, so that students will repeatedly practise their work to attain mastery. The chief education officer also made it clear that the CPEA is not something that was recently formulated.

She noted that in 2011, the CXC visited the Ministry of Education and met with heads of primary schools and teachers of grade six to discuss the way forward. She said after a presentation to Cabinet, the green light was given to implement the CPEA, and like Grenada, they went forward.

An important feature of the CPEA Gilchrist highlighted was that there was no need to change the curriculum.

“What we are using is the OECS harmonized curriculum and nobody has had to change that,” she said.(KW)

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