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Petition calls for exams to be postponed due to pandemic

Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Parents and guardians of P6 public school students have launched a petition to postpone the Cambridge Checkpoint exams because of disruption caused by the pandemic.

The exams are due to take place this month.

The petition launched on April 9 by “Bermuda Public School System P6 Parents” has so far had the support of more than 300 people.

The petition is aimed at “decision makers” including Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education and Kalmar Richards, the Commissioner of Education.

The petition says: “Under normal circumstances, this would not be an issue; the directive, unfortunately comes at a time where this cohort of students has had interrupted learning due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with recent news that they will be returning to remote learning during this period.

“With that, students and teachers have had little to no time to adequately prepare for such an assessment.”

The Ministry of Education announced last week that the decision had been made to move forward with assessments and that the Department of Education will administer the P6 and M3 Checkpoint assessments and the iGCSE examinations while adhering to strict safety measures outlined from the Department of Health.

It said: “This will be carried out in conjunction with the guidance handbook for the Cambridge International Exams that ensures the fidelity and security for the administration of the exams under the current circumstances of the pandemic …

“With our P6 students and M3 students writing their respective assessments at these transition points, primary and middle schools gain valuable information about students’ strengths and areas for improvement that can be used to make revisions for the delivery of programmes at their respective school levels.

“Additionally, the middle and senior schools that receive the incoming students in September are able to receive valuable assessment data that can be used to plan and make informed decisions about the teaching and learning experiences for the incoming students. These data are critical in supporting intervention strategies for teaching and learning, and for overall school improvement.”

The petition description added: “While we as parents and guardians are understanding of the Ministry’s need for sufficient data, we strongly believe that given the current, ever-changing developments, moving forward “as planned” would be detrimental to all parties.

“This decision will only inaccurately reflect the students’ knowledge of the test subject matter; in most cases, students have not even been introduced to the material covered in these exams.

“Over the past two years, normal learning has been disrupted; it would be unfair to subject students and their families to this testing due to the grave disadvantages faced during this period. Students have also had the misfortune of not having equitable access to resources in order for proper online learning and preparation to take place.

“Furthermore, some students and their families continue to battle illness due to the pandemic on top of other personal struggles that make it difficult to meet basic needs that would aid in a student's ability to focus. It all amounts to unnecessary stress that would not produce accurate/favourable results for students.“

Kanika Cameron, a concerned parent, wrote in the petition comments: “If the children lost three months of school last year, it means that teachers have had to remediate this year AND teach their normal syllabus. Have they considered the mental and emotional state of the students and their families trying to navigate through this pandemic. God forbid if they’ve had to deal with the virus directly.

“If anyone truly cared about these children they’d rethink that decision.

“All for the sake of gathering data?! Couldn’t data be gathered by using a Ministry test at the end of the school year?”

Another, Michelle Jackson, wrote: “If the test moves forward as planned on April 20 to 22, 2021, it shows that the Ministry/Department of Education places their data collection above the physical and psychological health of our children.

“Teachers are opposed to this decision, principals are opposed to this decision and parents are opposed to this decision. It's not just a poor decision. It's a harmful decision. Please postpone this Cambridge Checkpoint exam.”

The Ministry of Education did not respond to questions about the petition by press time.

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Published April 12, 2021 at 8:08 am (Updated April 12, 2021 at 8:08 am)

Petition calls for exams to be postponed due to pandemic

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