The reality of SBAs for teachers

I note with great concern that the Ministry of Education has written to secondary schools warning teachers that should they fail to mark and submit SBAs, they would be exposing themselves to “misconduct of a serious nature”.  It pains me to think that the new way being used by the ministry to respond to teachers’ legitimate grievances is by threats of disciplinary action. Is there no room for discussion and resolution of problems?

As a former teacher of CAPE Literatures in English and Communication Studies, I know what it is to prepare students for SBAs and to mark and submit them. It is tedious work, demanding much effort and patience. The process has become more stressful as CXC has included SBAs in all subject areas. Even CSEC English A and Mathematics now have SBA components, and the magnitude of work required of teachers of Food and Nutrition, for example, has to be seen to be believed.

Even without School Based Assessment, teaching is a strenuous exercise, and the Ministry of Education, led by former teachers, knows this only too well. Thus, its support for CXC’S unconscionable expansion of projects as part of their evaluation of students must be condemned.The public needs to know a few more facts about CXC and School Based Assessment.

First, some teachers have had to mark as many as100 pieces of work, some of which are as many as thirty pages long in the case of CSEC and many more for CAPE. Secondly, teachers are now required to scan students’ SBAs for submission on line. In addition, they are expected to perform the role of data entry clerks to ensure that CXC receives the marks on time. There is even a penalty of 50 dollars to be paid by schools for every error in data entry, and this can rise to 200 dollars after a certain date.

It has been brought to my attention that some teachers, taking responsibility for the mistakes, have pulled their pockets to pay the fees. It should be noted that data entry was previously done by persons hired by The Caribbean Examination Council. Apparently, however, the Council, a few years ago, decided that it made good economic sense to obtain the service for free, and so dumped it on teachers.

But it is not only teachers who are burdened. Because of CSEC and CAPE as well as the recently introduced CVQ and CCSLC programmes, our children from 1st to 6th form are asked to divert attention from studying and consolidating to doing SBAS. Given the early start of CXC exams, schools already have limited time for effective teaching of large syllabi.

But what are the educational benefits of burdening teachers and students with SBAs in every subject? I am yet to understand what so much emphasis on School Based Assessment accomplishes, especially since we know that increasing numbers of parents utilize a great deal of their time doing the bulk of the work for their children. Teachers can tell stories of parents complaining that the SBAs are working them too hard.

Now, I am not saying that there is no room for school based projects. Clearly, they can provide opportunities for research and reporting etc. However, it is educational madness to demand that teachers and pupils spend a disproportionate amount of theirtime on numerous SBAs. Prior to CXC’s “brilliant” plan for burdensome projects, students studied, wrote examinations, passed, and entered the world of work as productive citizens. I do not know of anybody working for CXC or the Ministry of Education who suffered because they did not do SBAs in English Language or Mathematics.

The impasse between the Ministry of Education and the BSTU reminds me of the Hands off School Meals dispute between the BUT and the ministry in the late 1970’s. At that time, the ministry tried to make working with school meals one of the duties of Primary School teachers {the teachers had for years been performing the task voluntarily}. The union, led by the late John Cumberbatch, quickly mobilized teachers and, despite threats of disciplinary action, the union held its ground and prevailed.

I have recounted that experience to point out that the ministry has no right to impose any duty which does not form part of the teacher’s job description present in law or educational regulations. CXC is an external body which cannot demand that teachers serve its interests. I can hardly see how the Ministry of Education can punish teachers for failure to do work that is not explicitly or implicitly contained in their contracts.

Finally, if CXC wishes to continue to have SBAs as a component of testing, then it should pay teachers or find its own marking teams. The examining body must stop expecting a free ride because it can count on the support of compliant regional Ministries of Education.

(John Goddard is a retired teacher who taught at St George Secondary and Harrison College)

8 Responses to The reality of SBAs for teachers

  1. Sheron Inniss March 28, 2017 at 12:47 pm

    I am backing Mary Redman on this one. CXC big brainers want notice. The teachers already performing absentee parents role and I believe the ministry behaving like tyrants. Shame shame shame on them. Nowadays I feel as if I am living in a communist country to some extent.

  2. Bobo March 28, 2017 at 1:51 pm

    Sheron Inniss –correction please -you will be better off living in a Communist country because education development is top ”priority” each child is capable to develop their talent–take a walk to Russia – China -Europe east, last but not least Cuba–living in a democratic country rules of laws are created hence policies should be implemented, instead laws remain on paper. Teachers are paid to teach to their best ability—

    They should be an appointed committee to mark and submit SBA- in doing so– eliminate bias attitudes and preference. But most Democratic countries remained ”Divided and Rule” that’s why -R Jones is Minister of Education a person being a teacher is one element but to lead and govern the most important institution ( education) that’s another element that R Jones don’t have and never will have–A Rational Experience Leader

  3. Innocent Bystander March 28, 2017 at 8:03 pm

    As far as I can remember, from the time i did examinations, School Based Assessment was a part of my school work, ranging from 4th form to be completed in 5th form. Thus i had two years to complete my SBAs. This has not changed, this is how school based assessment is to be done. It is not something that should be forced on the students in the final year when they have to write examinations. It should be done in stages. The syllabus is taught over a two year period. I think this is where persons are getting it wrong.

    In some territories, there are schools that complete their SBA by the first term of the students final year. It is the same with CAPE. The SBA is submitted over a two year period.

    I know i will get a lot of heckle for saying this, but at the end of the day, who will be disadvantaged, it’s not the teachers, or CXC themselves. It’s the candidates. The major persons in this entire debacle. Teachers are thinking of themselves, but not the candidates who have worked hard to ensure that they get all the work done. The candidates will not receive grades if SBA is not submitted. Those have been the rules and regulations for a long time. I am sure the teachers at Foundation can also attest to this. When did we lose sight of what is really important.

    Teachers are paid to teach and this includes projects (SBA) these can be incorporated and not seen as separate and distinct to the teaching. Minor projects can be done that relate or are centred around SBA.

    But this is just my humble view. As i said…i know i will get a lot of criticism for my post. But i am thinking of the candidate….who will suffer in the end.

    • P. Austin Jacobs March 30, 2017 at 6:32 pm

      Are you implying that teachers should forget about themselves and THEIR right to compensation?
      CXC is a third party NOT a government institution: it is therefore governmental overreach for or any Ministry of Education to insist that teachers are somehow contractually obligated to perform duties for CXC which is, for all intent and purpose, a private entity. I only wish that more unions in other territories that represent teachers would make the same stand as the BSTU.

      As for the students, they are the responsibility of the Ministry of Education and CXC who created the problem then cried foul, they alone can solve it; teachers, having completed the syllabus as mandated, have honoured their obligations. . Remember in every conflict there are casualties on both sides…innocent bystanders also fall victim

  4. Greengiant March 28, 2017 at 8:09 pm

    Bobo and Sheron,

    While you both have valid points, the education of our future leaders is of grave importance. This is why the teacher’s union should be testing this ultimatum by the education ministry in the law courts. Furthermore, the Caribbean union of teachers should be heading to the C C J for a regional ruling.

    The days of unions or governments getting what they want through industrial action or threatening letters is obsolete. We as a nation, a region and a people need to seek legal redress while the teachers get on with their jobs. We will all be lowers if we continue with these obsolete methods. After all teachers, like employees of the education ministries are parents too. So why will we continue to punish the children and further stress them, parents and teachers when there’s another way to resolve this without the loss of valuable teaching time. The adults involved in this continuing immature public spat needs to take a more professional approach to resolving this issue. This and many other burning issues currently being mishandled is convincing me more to enter elective politics. For me it’s disheartening and my people continue to suffer because those of us previously educated by the pension, and taxes of the masses have now forgotten the real purpose of that state sponsored education. Our departed elders are restless due to our selfish, misinformed failings.

  5. Greengiant March 28, 2017 at 8:24 pm

    This impasse in not about Minister Jones, Mary Redman or even the CXC. This is about our children’s education and it must be settled legally. Do we think our judges are not skilled enough, or impartial to give justice to our children and their children as well. If so I beg to differ, so I expect our local, and regional unions to urgently seek legal redress to this issue.

    Should the courts rule in the teacher’s favor and I expect they will, then the C X C and regional governments will have to address the cost of handling the S B A’s. Then one way or another we will get a workable solution acceptable to all parties. Now that’s why I constantly say to my fellow citizens that this country can’t be managed by the BLP or DLP anymore. We have outgrown their ideology. We need solutions for our country’s challenges.

  6. david gibbs March 29, 2017 at 2:49 pm

    The essential point is whether the SBAs can be fairly said to be under the purview of the teachers. The BSTU/BUT are denying that it is but they are yet to furnish a persuasive argument to support this. To date their major argument against the supervising the SBAs seems to be that is it “a lot of hard work and it is not part of their terms of service”. Yet they are willing to do it as long as they are paid. If it is not within their terms of service then they shouldn’t be doing it period – payment or no payment. My question is this: Don’t teachers as a normal and routine part of their jobs prepare students specifically for CXC/CAPE exams? If this is then on what basis can you prepare student for one aspect of the CXC/CAPE exam but not the SBA aspect?

  7. Maya Trotz March 29, 2017 at 8:36 pm

    The question to ask is what types of projects and resources are there for SBAs? Am a strong believer in project based learning/inquiry and the alignment with real needs of the community. And there are so many companies, ministries, agencies that would benefit from having young and energetic minds tackle a project that they wish completed. That requires a lot of coordination and alignment with mentors – can be done if people really think about it. That way a teacher is not stuck with grading 30 papers on the same thing that won’t get used by anyone. Mentors would be needed so that teachers are not trying to advise 30 different projects. Also think this can be done. If it is that someone external must come in and be paid to grade – then so be it, though it is possible that a project like this is the same as multiple homeworks. I’ve seen some SBA projects in Barbados that have blown me away with how good they are. The data collected is useful and local businesses and govt can think of how to integrate the SBA with monitoring etc. and therefore provide some resources for the teacher and students. Scanning and uploading – surely this can just be loaded online by the student if needed at the school in countries with fast internet.


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