Education Questions and Recovery

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With vaccination commencing and COVID-19 numbers falling, focus will perhaps shift to reopening various parts of the economy including the education sector. Our school-age children have been faced with a devastating disruption to their education. Multiple studies have shown that remote learning is significantly less effective in more resource-challenged schools. Furthermore, the Ministry of Education has no information available on their website on the schooling plans or direction for the remainder of the academic year. In this post, we will examine some of the gaps and areas where additional information from the Ministry of Education in St. Lucia would be valuable.

CXC Examinations

CXC recently announced the 2021 strategy for their examinations. CXC also released an SBA Treatment Handbook in December 2020 which outlined some of the modifications to the SBA requirements for the 2021 examinations.

· That CXC® will administer the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination® (CAPE®), Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate® (CSEC®) and Caribbean Certificate of Secondary Level Competence® (CCLSC®) Examinations in their original format; that is, for CAPE® and CSEC® Papers 01, 02 and 031 (School-Based Assessments [SBA]) or Paper 032 for private candidates, and for CCSLC®, Papers 01 and 02;

· That the examinations will be scheduled during the period June/July 2021, CSEC® and CAPE® written examinations commence on 14 June and end on 16 July 2021. Results will be made available to the Ministries of Education in the last week of September 2021;

· That an extension will be given for the deadline by which students can decide to defer the sitting of the 2021 examinations. All Candidates will be required to indicate their intent for deferral by 1 May 2021; and

· That taking into consideration the loss of learning many students experienced, that CXC® will share with Ministries of Education for communication to Candidates, the Broad topics to be assessed on Paper 02, five (5) weeks in advance of the start of examinations.

As a follow up to these pronouncements, the following things should be questioned:

· Will Saint Lucian students have sufficient time to complete the SBA requirement? Especially given the following “CXC® will maintain the strategy of 100% SBA moderation, across all centres, for all subjects in 2021.

· What provisions are in place for current Form 5 students in Saint Lucia to defer their examination to 2022 if they feel they are insufficiently prepared?

· Will the Ministry of Education in St. Lucia communicate the Broad topics that will be assessed to each school? If so when and how will this communication be completed to ensure that the students receive it prior to their examinations.

Common Entrance Examination

There has been no update from the Ministry of Education regarding Common Entrance and it is unclear when it is planned to be held and what format it will consist of. 2021 was supposed to be the final year of Common Entrance with this format as Saint Lucia finally transitions to Caribbean Primary Exit Examination in 2022. “The Ministry of Education (MOE) in St Lucia has taken the decision to implement the Caribbean Primary Exit Assessment (CPEA™) in September 2020, with the expectation that the first examination will be administered in 2022.” It is unclear why it took Saint Lucia so long to transition to the CPEA as numerous other Caribbean countries have already completed this migration.

From this earlier article, Mr Slyvestre Phillip stated: “I wish to indicate Anguilla, Grenada, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis are all in the advanced stages of implementation of CPEA. St. Lucia has not started and should have been way ahead in the implementation of the project since we had the honour of having a St. Lucian as the Registrar of CXC at the time. The CXC administered CPEA will be conducted on the following date. “COHSOD-Education also approved the dates of 27–28 May 2021 for the Caribbean Primary Exit Assessment™ (CPEA™) examinations” .

The focus of the CPEA is on a set of literacies, which are common to all primary curricula across the region and are necessary for students to achieve at higher levels of education. These include:

  • mathematical
  • language
  • civic
  • scientific

When will the Ministry of Education indicate what the plans for the 2021 Common Entrance Examination be and also plans for the CPEA in 2022?

Effectiveness of Virtual Learning

This recent analysis from McKinsey Consulting provided very concerning analysis on the significant negative impact of COVID-19 on the education systems of developed countries. It is presumed that the impact on developing countries would be even more dire given their more limited resources as implied by the study.

Resources make a difference. Teachers who taught at public schools gave remote learning an average global score of 4.8, while their peers in private schools, which often have better access to learning tools, averaged a rating of 6.2. There is obviously a wide variation in resources for students and teachers in public schools, too. Teachers working in high-poverty schools found virtual classes to be especially ineffective, rating it 3.5 out of 10, bolstering concerns that the pandemic has exacerbated educational inequalities. Teachers in wealthy and private schools were also more likely to report that their students were well equipped with internet access and the devices required for remote learning, which may explain why their students were also most likely to log in and complete assignments.”

Therefore, it is expected that students from schools such as Branksome Hall in Toronto whom very few Saint Lucians can afford would have fared much better during the COVID-19 pandemic than the typical school in Saint Lucia .

The OECS Education Sector COVID19 Response and Recovery Strategy is meant to provide support to the Member States in addressing the myriad challenges created or exacerbated by COVID-19. However, to date the Ministry of Education has provided no details on how this Academic Recovery Programme will be functioned. Parents and students have been left to fend for themselves to figure out how they would be able to get their children back on track after this major disruption. “Teachers are right to be concerned. While students may learn more online as schools adopt best practices for remote learning, vulnerable students need help now and will need additional support as they return to the classroom. Otherwise, an unprecedented series of shutdowns could set back some students to the point where they may never recover.

Let us hope that over the next few weeks the Ministry of Education can provide more detailed updates on the next steps for the education system. It would be ideal if this also includes details on the upcoming standardized examinations and the Academic Recovery Programme. All Saint Lucians need this current administration to ensure that education is a high priority and our Saint Lucian children do not suffer irreparable damage.

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Critical data-driven research analysis of challenges facing Saint Lucia.