Clarifying the CXC SBAs

Public examinations comprise not only the administration of the externally examined paper by the published date. It also encompasses the administration of the continuous assessment of the students – an activity which is supervised by teachers based on specific criteria and moderated by the Examining Board.

Moderation involves the remarking of samples of the teacher’s continuous assessment in order to ensure conformity with the standards of the Examining Board.

 Below is some information about school based assessment (SBA) as designed by the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC), the premier testing institution in the region. In conceptualizing and introducing SBA in 1979, CXC sought to bring several innovations to the assessment and certification of secondary school students in the Caribbean. The concept has since been introduced by many examining boards. In some countries, SBA forms the entire examination in some subject areas.

SBA/Internal Assessment was seen as a strategy to:

i. Give teachers a meaningful voice in the assessment and certification of their students. What is not generally known is that the CXC syllabuses and assessment strategies are developed in consultation with teachers. They serve on and predominate the membership of the syllabus formulation panels. In addition, the draft syllabuses are circulated to schools and subject associations for comment before the final version is circulated.

ii. Allow students to demonstrate knowledge, skills and abilities not readily assessed in the traditional examination environment. This is also important for those candidates who do not normally perform well in the examination setting;

iii. Enhance the overall validity of the assessment process; and

iv. Provide the opportunity for students to pursue individual interests, within the parameters of the curriculum, by engaging in projects and investigations of their own choice.

An essential aspect of the teacher’s role and responsibility has always been to devise projects and assignments that allow learners to apply what they have been taught by completing these tasks as classwork or homework over a set period of time. The work is assessed by the teacher and the scores reported, usually at the end of the school term or year. Those teachers who follow best practices provided feedback to their students to guide them in the direction of improved performance in the future.

This is precisely how it was envisioned that SBA/Internal Assessment would be implemented in the classroom, and that is why the more successful schools are the ones that enforce their deadlines and treat the SBA no differently than they have always treated projects and assignments. The only difference is that the scores should now be forwarded to the examining body and a sample of the candidates’ work submitted for moderation for quality assurance purposes.

It is important to note that in the early days, the SBA scores were captured manually by the teacher and forwarded to the Council for entry. In response to the concerns raised by teachers across the region about the manual capture of the scores, the Council provided a simple web form which allowed the teachers to enter the candidates’ scores onscreen. This eliminated errors of transcription and provided a permanent record which could be verified by authorized personnel.

SBA at the CSEC level, in most instances, is done over a two-year period which should begin in form 4 and conclude when the final scores are captured in term 2 of year 5.  In other words, there are five terms in which candidates select, investigate and complete the assignment, and teachers capture the scores for the various components of the assignment.

In schools where the programme is efficiently organized, teachers and students agree on the dates for the presentation of various sections of the study, e.g. Introduction, Literature Review etc. Once these dates are strictly enforced and adhered to, teachers and learners know precisely how to plan and schedule their submissions to avoid ‘bunching’ i.e. when everything becomes due simultaneously.

What has become apparent is that in many instances, SBA is now being completed in terms 4 and 5 (i.e. terms 1 and 2 of year 5) creating unimaginable challenges for teacher and student as it is now being managed as a one shot test and not continuous assessment. Moreover, the SBA report should not exceed 1,000
words (three pages) at CSEC and 1,500
at CAPE.

A teacher who permits candidates to submit 50 pages or more has not been involved in the candidate’s process or he/she would have advised the candidate correctly. Group/team work is also permitted and indeed it is encouraged. In addition, CXC allows students doing more than one subject in a cognate group, for example, the natural sciences, to submit one integrated SBA project rather than having to complete a project for each of the three subjects.

This reduces significantly the amount of individual scoring the teacher has to do and speeds up the marking process. In addition, at the CAPE level, in selected subject areas, the Unit 1 SBA may be taken forward to Unit 2 once the candidate is satisfied with his/her performance at Unit 1.

Teachers know their students well. It is they who can determine whether or not the work submitted truly represents the students’ best efforts, and it is they who are well positioned to assess their students’ efforts fairly and reliably. For anyone other than the teacher to take on the responsibility of assessing the candidate’s work and giving feedback at each stage, or of marking the final product would be to defeat the purpose of the SBA.

(Susan Giles is former Head of Examinations Administration & Security at CXC)

6 Responses to Clarifying the CXC SBAs

  1. Mikey April 5, 2017 at 8:57 pm

    What a poor attempt at getting Teachers to mark SBA’s.
    Was there any communication or interaction between teachers and CXC officials when SBA’s were first introduced ?

    If Teachers are not conducting SBA in the correct manner, then who is responsible for this blunder ?

    Is the inclusion of SBA’s necessary in students grasp of subject matter ?

    Is the inclusion of SBA’s necessary in students ability to apply subject matter in a practical and hands-on manner ?

    These are some of the questions that should be answered by Ms. Giles.

  2. Debra thornhill April 6, 2017 at 10:51 am

    How can you call that a poor attempt do you have children at school? schools have year heads whose responsibility it is to advised their subjects of all rules and regulations if SBAs we’re done in States as they as suppose to be done or in groups that would alleviate a lot of pressure on both teacher and child

  3. Debra thornhill April 6, 2017 at 10:59 am

    Every thing that she is saying I already know I heard it from my daughter so the same way she knew don’t you think the teacher’s know too

  4. candace April 6, 2017 at 12:00 pm

    Thanks for the clarification again. I know there was one CXC registrar that has been saying that but some teachers want students to be doing SBA, MOCK exams and preparing for CXC at the same time. Does that mean that the principals are not monitoring the teachers?

  5. Mahadeo Deokinandan April 7, 2017 at 4:21 pm

    SBAs are introducing students away from a chalk board and into the real world where they are going to function, not as robots or walking calculators, but as thinkers and doers.

    Let SBAs be integral to all CSEC and CAPE subjects.

  6. Bernard Elliott April 8, 2017 at 2:55 pm

    How about compensating teachers for the job they do. We do all this work for 2 years without being compensated while someone just visit the schools for a few hours to moderate the completed sba’s and is paid. If u want the best, compensate the rest


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