On a normal day, primary school students would be gearing up for the Primary School Examinations (PSE) that were initially scheduled for April 30. High School students would also be preparing for the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) exams and applying for various tertiary level institutions. However, we are not living in normal times. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused both these exams to be postponed indefinitely. According to the president of the Belize National Teachers Union (BNTU), Elena Smith, the PSE’s may be facing cancellation, while the CXC’s may be done online.
Elena Smith, President, Belize National Teachers Union: “In terms of PSE the last thing that was out was the matter of postponing but we’re at a place right now where we are not sure when things will get back to normal and so that might have to end up being a cancellation of that exam as opposed to postponing it further and so I understand based on our meeting yesterday with the Ministry that we had an initial discussion that the Ministry wanted to share with us what their plans going forward and how we can agree on some meetings going forward and so I understand from them yesterday that the Minister is going to be making some pronouncements soon as it relates to PSE and CXCs. In terms of CXCs that is not really within our control and that’s an external exam but it will not happen when it normally happens in May meaning it won’t happen for this period so it has to be pushed back as well and the unions in the Caribbean have been having discussions as it relates to that and we have some concerns so those concerns that were submitted to CXC on behalf of the Caribbean Union of Teachers we are awaiting feedback on them. Our Ministry has said that the same concerns that we raised that they have those similar concerns and they had written to CXC with those concerns as well so we seem to be on the same page when it comes to the concerns regarding an online exam for CXC for this school year.”
Another issue that BNTU along with the Ministry of Education have to tackle is the effect that COVID-19 will have on the academic year since students have been out of school since March 20.
Elena Smith, President, Belize National Teachers Union: “In terms of the reopening of schools again as I said it doesn’t seem the way things are going right now it doesn’t seem as if though we would be back in school for the remainder of the school year but we have to await the directory from the Ministry of Health as I said looking at how things are progressing it wouldn’t seem that we would be able to go back for this school year so I had made a few suggestions to the Ministry and as I said we would continue those discussions because you will realize that if we are not going back to school for the third term then it would mean that our students would have missed out an entire term plus a portion of the second term and there’s going to be a lot to catch up on. So I suggested to the Ministry that what we need to look at now going back for September for this school year whenever we are back in school is to look at a change in the curriculum because we cannot go back to school with things as they were, we have to make some changes and one of the changes that can be made to accommodate this three and a half months loss of teaching time or contact time would be that we would have to now change the curriculum to focus on the important aspects, the reading, writing and arithmetic that we have been accustomed to. So those are discussions that we will continue to have with the Ministry but what they have accepted and we understand that there has to be a change for the upcoming school year because we now have to now bring the students to complete the part of the school year that they missed and then have them catch up to the new class that they would be in so it’s going to take a lot and teachers will have additional work to do in terms of trying creative ways of having students catching up but I’m sure that our teachers will do their best to ensure that the students are caught up and when they leave the following year they would be as close to where they should be as possible.”
Smith also mentioned that primary school students may just have to be moved up to another class since it is not possible to hold all of them back.