CXC official investigating local exam breach

by Miranda La Rose
Stabroek News
June 29, 1999

An official of the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) was in the country last week assisting in the investigations into the leak of a test paper prior to the sitting of Mathematics at the recently completed CXC examinations.

In a brief telephone interview, CXC Registrar, Dr Lucy Steward told Stabroek News on Friday that CXC still had no further update on the status of the investigation which was underway, but that CXC had received a report from the Ministry of Education and was working along with the ministry. CXC, she said, had an official in Georgetown assisting in the investigations.

Dr Steward said that the ministry had advised CXC that there was a breach, but that the extent of the breach was still unknown. Because the investigations were still incomplete, she said that she could not say if or when or who might have to rewrite the examinations.

When contacted to give an update on the investigations on Friday, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education Hydar Ally said that the ministry, CXC and the police were in the middle of investigations and the situation would have to be examined before he could make any pronouncement. He also said that he saw no basis for reports on the issue in the press at this time.

In a recent interview with the Stabroek News, prior to his departure for the CXC Secretariat in Barbados, Chief Education Officer Ed Caesar had said that it was most likely that students who had written Mathematics Paper Two, the paper which had been leaked prior to the test, might have to rewrite the examination in the near future.

Caesar was unable to say how widespread the leak was but admitted that it was serious and more widespread than he might have originally thought. As such, he said, it might lead to some action being taken.

The Guyana Government may also have to undertake the cost of having students redo the paper, which would involve incurring a great deal of expense. This is based on an agreement Guyana has signed covering breaches of security in examinations.

At present parents and students are anxious to know how the investigations are proceeding and how soon the findings will be released and recommendations made, because their children are either due to go overseas for the holidays or alternatively, there are other plans for them, which have had to be placed on hold.

Teachers, too, are anxious as they want to know if they must continue tutoring the students. Some teachers expressed shock at the security breach and some students were angry on account of the effort they had put into the exams. Some felt it was good because the examiners would pay greater attention to security in the future.

Some invigilators in the system who spoke with this newspaper ruled out a breach at the Examinations Division in Georgetown but felt that the papers might not be as secure at out of town locations.

During the sitting of the Mathematics exam, a female student of a city secondary school turned in a copy of the paper which she recognized, and which she had been in possession of at least a day before the test began. The paper, the student was reported to have said, was given to her by a male friend. The friend from whom the paper was obtained lives on the East Coast Demerara.

No one has been charged in the matter, but the student and the friend who supplied the paper were placed on $10,000 bail to allow investigations to continue. Since then Stabroek News learnt that a number of persons were allegedly in possession of the test paper prior to the sitting of the examination. There were no indications that those interrogated were released on bail.

There were reports that students at another city secondary school also revised the said paper the day before the test began and students recognised the questions when they were in the examination. According to reports received by this newspaper, the papers were being sold at a cost of $5,000 each. To date this has not been confirmed.

Since the breach was made public, persons have expressed concern about the security of papers. A similar breach occurred in the early 1980's and education officials said that it had been localised to a centre on the East Coast Demerara and to one individual in the city. CXC disqualified those persons who were involved in that breach.

In recent years, breaches in certain examination papers were also reported in Jamaica and the students were again disqualified.

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Guyana: Land of Six Peoples