– each school will fix its own timetable, says Manickchand

When schools are reopened for Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) students, the Ministry of Education (MoE) will not be implementing a universal plan, but will allow each school to create one that best suits its environment.
To this end, parents will be able to work out flexible arrangements with the teachers regarding how many days and how many hours per day, students will be required to attend classes in preparation for the 2021 examinations.

This was explained by Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand, on Tuesday, during a virtual meeting with parents of some of Region Four’s CXC students. On Monday, the ministry commenced the virtual meetings as a way of engaging parents in each education district one-on-one with regards to reopening school for students writing the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examination and Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE).
The Minister said given that schools have varying numbers of CXC students – some have a small number while others have larger numbers- it would be impractical of the ministry to ask all schools to use the same plan.

“We don’t want for the MoE to do one size fits all. We’re not saying at 8am everyone should come in; we’re saying to schools set your timetable. One school may want some students from 1pm to 5pm, or want students to come in on Saturdays. They may say some students come Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and other students come Tuesday, Thursday Saturday. We are leaving it up to the schools because we believe that they are responsible enough to set their schedules,” the Minister informed, as she responded to queries from the concerned parents.
The Minister explained that schools will be required to submit their respective proposed plans to the ministry, and in cases where a proper plan cannot be proposed the ministry will step in.

“We want to leave it up to the schools, but we will be in touch, and if they fail to give us a sensible plan we will step in. What we are doing essentially is helping schools to do a schedule, so that they can be guided because people may feel a little overwhelmed. We are currently doing a draft guidance for when SBAs should be done [and] how they should be done,” the Minister related.

MoE during the week will also be meeting with its teachers. Once the consultation process is complete, the ministry will make a final decision on the way forward.
Schools in Guyana have been closed since mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Teaching is being done virtually, but many parents are worried that their children will suffer learning loss. Many do not believe that the virtual learning is sufficient, particularly for those preparing do the regional examinations.

For some weeks now, teachers have been lobbying the ministry for permission to return to school so that they can conduct face-to-face teaching and properly assist students with their School-Based Assessments (SBAs) and Internal Assessments (IAs). The minister had confirmed that the ministry is actively considering the request.
On Monday, the ministry began the consultation with the teachers and parents from the Georgetown and Region Three education districts. On Tuesday, metings were held with stakeholders in Regions Four, Five, Six and Seven. Regions One, Two, Eight, Nine and 10 have meetings scheduled for Wednesday.
During the meetings, the parents and teachers are given a chance to ask questions, suggest recommendations and share their thoughts and concerns about the matter at hand.

Chief Education Officer (CEO), Dr. Marcel Hutson is also attending the meetings. At Tuesday’s meeting with the parents of Region Four students, Dr. Hutson sought to reassure them that the ministry will be doing its part to keep students safe when they return to the classroom.

“We consider our parents as key stakeholders in the process of education delivery and we want parents to know that as a ministry we would do all that is necessary when school reopens. We have the children’s interest, their safety and security at heart,” Dr. Hutson conveyed.
He told the parents that the ministry cannot do it alone and used the opportunity to call on them to play their part in helping to ensure the students remain safe.

“We look forward to having a grand reopening, eventually, and those students writing their exams, we trust that they will do well and move on to higher institution of learning. The world is not waiting on us and we have to put in place measures that will allow us to progress,” Dr. Hutson noted.

The CXC examinations are usually written in May/June. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic it is uncertain when it would be written and what format the exams are likely to take for the 2021 sitting. The council had administered a modified version for 2020 which included the exclusion of Paper Two. This led to a number of issues including many being awarded “ungraded” in a number of subjects and lower that projected results.
From all indications the examinations will be returned to its customary format, that is, Papers One, Two and Three, next year.