CXC must provide the relevant skills for region's emerging single economy -Carrington

Stabroek News
May 5, 2003

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The success of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) will depend as much on skilled labour as on attracting investment.

In this regard the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) needs to tailor courses to suit specific goals on which there was agreement among regional governments, business, labour and educators.

These were the thoughts of CARICOM Secretary-General, Edwin Carrington who was taking part in a panel discussion on the topic `A response to the region's Human Development Needs' held at the Sherbourne Conference Centre in Barbados to mark the CXC's 30th anniversary.

Looking back on CXC's 30 years, Carrington said its success was an indication that the region had accepted the responsibility for the development of its own human resources.

And he added this success could be gleaned by the adoption of the CXC's School-Based Assessment by the United Kingdom in its redesigning of its General Certificate of Education (GCE) programme.

The CXC is one of CARICOM's earliest institutions and its birthday coincides with the organisation's 30th anniversary.

He said the responsiveness of the programme had resulted in a heavy cost to bear, given the fact that there may not be unanimity among member countries with respect to their individual training needs. Now the policy planners were now looking at increasing the CXC workload with the prospect of common certification at the level of third form.

When CXC first administered examinations for the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) in 1979, only five subjects were examined with 58,704 subject entries from 30,194 candidates. By 2002 there were 48 subjects at the CSEC level with some 464,486 subject entries from 122,621 candidates.

Following CSEC was the development of the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations (CAPE) to replace the GCE Advanced Level examinations. Carrington argued that CAPE gave greater flexibility in studies with candidates opting for breadth or depth of study and they could build on units and modules to acquire a desired grouping for further study or for the workplace. The units and modules for the various subjects were another aspect of the CXC work which had been adopted in the UK. With seven units administered and 797 candidates registering for the CAPE examinations in 1998, four years later the number of subject units has grown to 40 and the number of candidates to 5,741.

With St Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago entering candidates at CAPE for the first time next year, it is expected that the numbers would increase significantly.

This growth, Carrington said, would contribute to achieving the goal set by the 1997 mandate of Heads of Government which called for a 15% enrolment of the post secondary age cohort in tertiary level education programmes by 2005.

Carrington said preparation for the workplace must be one of the links to be forged with industry as CARICOM harnessed its resources to construct a viable and sustainable economy. Even if the region succeeded in developing the workforce, Carrington said there was no guarantee that there would be full use of the product, as the exodus of trained personnel put an added onus on institutions like the CXC, to increase not only its numbers and subject areas but also its catchment range.

The time has come, he said, for CXC to examine the possibility of providing distance learning, which should not only be a mechanism to provide tertiary education but should also be used to provide the scope to pursue such higher learning even after leaving the school building, as well as to create opportunities for life-long learning. This was one way in which the region could increase its numbers of trained personnel to cushion the effects of the exodus.

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