BUT president Belinda Wilson.
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
THE first day of the sitting of the national BJC and BGCSE exams had some challenges, according to Bahamas Union of Teachers president Belinda Wilson. The exams are controversially being held later than usual this year because of COVID-19 after months of school closures forced students to learn virtually.
Mrs Wilson said she was informed that ministry officials were late to some schools; that some exams started late at least at one centre; that there was “little to no social distancing and that workers were seen not wearing masks”; that students’ desks were not six feet apart and that classrooms were not cleaned.
She said she was also told that some invigilators were informed on Sunday that they would not be used, that some of them were not trained and did not have their schedules, that some students did not have their timetables while others did not show up for their exams, that student participation was low and that 50 percent of the people who volunteered to assist were not used.
“It is no surprise because Ministry of Education officials have difficulty implementing procedures under normal circumstances,” she said. “When education officials ignore common sense recommendations and best practices that have been tried and provided before in the Bahamas and other jurisdictions then what can be expected? I just hope for the sake of our nation’s youth that the Ministry of Education gets its act together and review the mistakes of day one and improve (today) and the days and weeks ahead.”
She said questions remain about the reliability, validity and integrity of the exams because of these reasons and because of the absence of Cambridge University’s involvement and the role that institution plays in inspecting exam centres and providing oversight.
Last month, more than 8,000 students and parents across the country signed an online petition calling for the cancellation of the national exams.
In response, Education Minister Jeff Lloyd stressed that the exams are voluntary, adding that it is the “social, intellectual and legal responsibility” of the ministry to make sure students can take the exams if they want to.
Students taking the national exam must wear school uniforms, bring a government issued picture ID or a school photo ID, wear masks properly when entering the campuses and sanitise their hands at the entrance and get a temperature reading, according to education officials.