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New regional secondary school entrance programme in the works

3/11/2012

By Jenna Marshall

The Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) will look to replace primary school exit level examinations across the region with a regional assessment programme, entitled CPEA.

This statement from Dr Gordon Harewood, Senior Assistant Registrar in the Evaluation Department and Production Division at CXC.

He made this revelation at the inaugural Stakeholder Seminar for Journalists at Alexander Court last Monday.

Present at the seminar including journalists from Barbados and around the Eastern Caribbean, were members from media houses in Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Montserrat, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago.

As one of its latest initiatives, CXC has set its sights on implementing the Caribbean Primary Exit Assessment (CPEA) programme throughout all of its member nations. Given its role as an examinations body, each government in the region will have to give approval for the implementation of the programme.

Dr Harewood believed that current primary exit examinations across the region were too narrow in focus, relying heavily on solely Mathematics and Language skills. He insisted that, given global competitiveness, it was crucial for Caribbean students to possess an assessment-based programme such as CPEA which incorporated a broader range of subject literacies, particularly science.

He revealed the programme was currently undergoing an independent pilot study in two member countries with Grenada fully replacing its secondary school entrance examination with the CPEA programme. Barbados declined to participate in pilot programme.

He explained that the secondary school placement system of each country would remain unchanged but insisted that the score received by students would be much richer given the inclusion of assessments based on science and social studies literacies.

He added that the programme, which will take place over two years, will not be an examination rather, he explained, it will be assessment-based. However, similarly to other examinations administered by the Council, such as CSEC and CAPE, the examination component of CPEA would be performed simultaneously throughout Caribbean.

Forty per cent of the overall score (200 marks) for students sitting CPEA will consist of internal assessment including: project and book report and writing task (40 marks); practice can-do skills (40 marks); self assessment (20 marks); and teacher prepared tests (100 marks) in English, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies – each with a score of 25.

The external component, which will account for sixty per cent of the overall score, will consist of an examination worth 300 marks including assessments in the areas of English, Mathematics and Science, each possessing a highest possible score of 100.

This structure was designed, says Harewood, to increase the fairness of secondary school entry as well as to ease the stress of the high stakes one-shot examinations currently in place.

“Exams will always be stressful once they are a gateway to limited opportunities. However, students develop their literacies over a period of time, therefore they will go into the exam with more confidence,” he said.

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