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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.”

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