Photo by Ben White on Unsplash
Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

The Caribbean Union of Teachers stands up for students on school examinations amid the pandemic

published 8 June 2021 updated 10 June 2021

The Caribbean Union of Teachers has been advocating for 2021 examinations in the region to be adapted to the challenging situation crated by the prolonged educational disruption. At the end of May, the umbrella organisation of teachers’ unions in the region won a first victory as the Caribbean Examinations Council announced a two-week delay in the examination process.

Education in the Caribbean under pressure

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a great economic and social impact in the Caribbean. The pandemic resulted in unprecedented educational disruption in the region, with educational institutions having to temporarily close in order to contain the spread of the virus. This forced teachers and students across the region into distance-learning modalities. While the crisis is currently under control, the pandemic continues to pose a serious threat to public health and safety and the operation of educational institutions.

In addition to the effects of the pandemic, the La Soufriere volcanic eruptions in St. Vincent and the Grenadines have seriously compromised education in this country.

Education unions: Examination policies must prioritise the best interests of students

Recognising the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic in education, the Caribbean Union of Teachers, the umbrella organisation of teachers’ unions in the region, mandated its affiliates to engage in dialogue with their Ministries of Education on the best measures to be adopted at the national levels. At the same time, the Caribbean Union of Teachers undertook advocacy work at the regional level to address the crisis.

One of the areas of great concern for educators in the Caribbean is the organisation of regional examinations amid the pandemic. Within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the examinations which certify secondary school graduates with the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate and the pre-tertiary level qualification known as the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination are conducted by the Caribbean Examinations Council. The Caribbean Union of Teachers initiated a number of meetings with the Caribbean Examinations Council and CARICOM’s Council for Human and Social Development to discuss its concerns. The Caribbean Union of Teachers also held consultations with educators and other stakeholders in the region and received overwhelming support for its proposals.

The regional education and trade union body insisted that the best interest of the students should be a critical factor in decision making on examinations, calling for a narrowing of the syllabus and informing teachers and students of the topics for the examinations in a timelier manner.

A first victory for education unions in the Caribbean

On Wednesday 26th May, the Caribbean Examinations Council announced that the exams would be delayed by two weeks. The decision was welcomed by education unions as it gives students and teachers more time to work with the topics for the examinations.

The Caribbean Union of Teachers and its member organisations will continue to work to minimise the impact of the pandemic on students in the Caribbean and to ensure they are able to pursue their education despite the health crisis.