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Trinidad: Investigation into absence of school official during CSEC Math exam

By Anna-Lisa Paul

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(TRINIDAD GUARDIAN) — Even as in­ves­ti­ga­tions con­tin­ue in­to the cheat­ing scan­dal which oc­curred dur­ing last Wednes­day’s CSEC Math ex­am at the Tran­quil­li­ty Gov­ern­ment Sec­ondary School, a par­al­lel in­ves­ti­ga­tion has been launched in­to the ab­sence of a key se­nior of­fi­cial who ought to have been present at the in­sti­tu­tion on the day.

Claim­ing the school was one which some­times pre­sent­ed “chal­lenges”, of­fi­cials at the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion said the in­di­vid­ual took a day off. Checks re­vealed that a sim­i­lar pat­tern had been ob­served in re­la­tion to the of­fi­cial’s ab­sence every time a sit­u­a­tion arose at that par­tic­u­lar school.

Al­though teach­ers and prin­ci­pals are en­ti­tled to 14 days oc­ca­sion­al leave dur­ing the aca­d­e­m­ic year, a se­nior min­istry of­fi­cial said arrange­ments should have been made by the of­fi­cial to be present on the day as it was im­por­tant to en­sure prop­er con­trols were in place.

The Tran­quil­li­ty Gov­ern­ment Sec­ondary School was used by the Caribbean Ex­am­i­na­tions Coun­cil (CXC) to house three ex­am cen­tres.

Con­firm­ing three in­vig­i­la­tors had been dis­missed af­ter a video was post­ed to so­cial me­dia show­ing sev­er­al stu­dents us­ing their cell phones to share an an­swer sheet, min­istry of­fi­cials on Fri­day said while those stu­dents would be al­lowed to con­tin­ue to write the re­main­der of their ex­ams there is a strong pos­si­bil­i­ty they would face reper­cus­sions af­ter the ex­ams are con­clud­ed.

This could re­sult in them be­ing pe­nalised by CXC and not be­ing al­lowed to grad­u­ate.

Min­istry of­fi­cials said they were al­so look­ing in­to un­con­firmed re­ports that some of the stu­dents had re­fused to lodge their cell phones with school of­fi­cials on the day of the ex­am, de­spite the fact that both the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion and CXC has strict poli­cies pro­hibit­ing the use of elec­tron­ic de­vices dur­ing ex­ams.

On May 16, CXC post­ed a short re­lease to its web­site which read, “The Caribbean Ex­am­i­na­tions Coun­cil (CXC) has been made aware of a breach in ex­am­i­na­tion se­cu­ri­ty in Trinidad and To­ba­go. At this time we are work­ing close­ly with the Trinidad Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion to con­duct an in­ves­ti­ga­tion sur­round­ing the re­port. Ap­pro­pri­ate cor­rec­tive ac­tion will be tak­en quick­ly to re­in­force ex­ist­ing se­cu­ri­ty mea­sures and to mit­i­gate any po­ten­tial im­pact.”

In its 2013 guide­lines for can­di­dates writ­ing ex­ams of­fered by CXC, un­der the head­ing Ma­te­r­i­al and Equip­ment NOT Per­mit­ted in the Ex­am­i­na­tion Room, it clear­ly states, “MO­BILE TELE­PHONES, iPods, MP3/4 play­ers and oth­er elec­tron­ic de­vices, whether in the “off” or “on” po­si­tion.”

Re­gard­ing the use of cal­cu­la­tors and dic­tio­nar­ies, CXC ad­vised they were not al­lowed un­less specif­i­cal­ly stat­ed that they are per­mit­ted for the sub­ject pa­per.

Al­so banned was the use of books, notes, plain pa­per, bags, box­es of in­stru­ments bear­ing da­ta or any oth­er ar­ti­cle bear­ing da­ta, blot­ting pa­per, graph pa­per or trac­ing pa­per; while rough work should be writ­ten in the an­swer book­lets or on sin­gle sheets pro­vid­ed by the in­vig­i­lat­ing staff.

CXC stat­ed, “Unau­tho­rised ma­te­r­i­al and equip­ment brought in­to the ex­am­i­na­tion room, whether the can­di­date in­tend­ed to use it or not, is an of­fence and sub­ject to the ap­pro­pri­ate penal­ties.”

Min­is­ter to meet with PS

Mean­while, Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter An­tho­ny Gar­cia is ex­pect­ed to meet with the Per­ma­nent Sec­re­tary and Chief Ed­u­ca­tion Of­fi­cer to­mor­row so he can be ap­prised of the in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

Re­veal­ing he had met with a team of of­fi­cials in an emer­gency ses­sion on Fri­day, Gar­cia yes­ter­day said, “There was an ini­tial re­port that was sub­mit­ted by the su­per­vi­sor but we have asked for a more de­tailed re­port and I am hop­ing that on Mon­day, I can be fur­nished with that re­port.”

Ad­dress­ing re­porters fol­low­ing the Peo­ple’s Na­tion­al Move­ment (PNM) Gen­er­al Coun­cil Meet­ing at Bal­isi­er House, Gar­cia said re­gard­ing the se­lec­tion of ex­am in­vig­i­la­tors, “First of all, we have cen­tre co­or­di­na­tors and these per­sons will be in charge of a clus­ter of schools which is no more than five.”

He said this was fol­lowed by su­per­vi­sors who are charged with the re­spon­si­bil­i­ty of en­sur­ing the cen­tres are prop­er­ly su­per­vised, and in­vig­i­la­tors who are in the class­rooms while ex­ams are be­ing con­duct­ed.

Elab­o­rat­ing on the cri­te­ria for se­lect­ing the in­di­vid­u­als, Gar­cia said, “Co­or­di­na­tors and su­per­vi­sors are tak­en from re­tired prin­ci­pals or re­tired pub­lic ser­vants who have worked al­ready, so there­fore they would have had the ex­pe­ri­ence. In terms of the in­vig­i­la­tors, we had is­sued an ad­ver­tise­ment invit­ing per­sons to ap­ply for po­si­tions and on the ba­sis of that in­for­ma­tion, we in­ter­viewed per­sons and made the se­lec­tions.”

Asked if any changes would be made to the se­lec­tion process as a re­sult of Wednes­day’s mis­han­dling, Gar­cia said, “I don’t see the need for any great change ex­cept that we have to be more vig­i­lant in terms of those per­sons we ap­point.

“We have to make sure they have the com­mit­ment and that they have the ap­ti­tude be­cause as you know, the ex­am­i­na­tions are very sen­si­tive is­sues and we want to make sure these ex­am­i­na­tions are ad­min­is­tered prop­er­ly.”

This article was posted in its entirety as received by This media house does not correct any spelling or grammatical error within press releases and commentaries. The views expressed therein are not necessarily those of, its sponsors or advertisers.

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