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Lowering exit exam’s pass mark was a ‘mistake’, says former Chief Education Officer

Inside the makeshift building in Pasea Estate that houses ESHS operations.

Former Chief Education Officer Elroy Turnbull believes the decision made by Education Minister Dr Natalio Wheatley to lower the secondary schools’ Exit Proficiency Exam pass mark was a ‘mistake’.

Turnbull made the assertion on Tuesday during the Honestly Speaking with Claude Skelton Cline radio programme.

According to Wheatley, his research has shown many flaws in the exit exam. But Turnbull argues that the exam should have been completely removed if it was found to be flawed.

READ: The minister’s reasons for lowering pass mark

“Having said those things, I think the exam in terms of the general principals in which those exams were set and assessed was null and void. It was not reliable. It was not valid and it was a fraud. You cannot have those kids, as well as the teachers, believe the exam is going to test on what they did and then you come with something that has no relevance to what was taught” Turnbull argued.

He further said: “He (the minister) should have just cancelled it, make it null and void and leave the grading system that the school had. He didn’t have to go and lower anything. The school’s pass mark was 50, this exam was 60 and he lowered it from 60 to 50.”

Other options available

The retired educator believes another route could have been taken to help resolve the issue surrounding the mandatory final exam.

“If you want to supplement that, you could ask the principal or somebody to come up with something else. Maybe something needs to get more weighted because this exam accounted for 15 percent of the total school leaving process. So if you got rid of this thing you could’ve found something to substitute that would give you 15 percent,” Turnbull stated.

“Then again, what disturbs me is: Why are you having this thing as a compulsory exam that people have to take? The compulsory exams traditionally are Mathematics and Language Arts because they are the fundamentals so I don’t understand it. It baffles me,” Turnbull said.

Education review needed

Turnbull also said he believes there is a need for an education review, which would look at the education system in the past and present then plans for the future.

He said this move is necessary because he believes “that education today, unfortunately, has been marginalized and compromised”.

“This education review will be commissioned by government, whether the Ministry of Education or the Premier’s Office. Traditionally they (the board members that sit on these review panels) have involved a few local educators, people from society. We’ve had experts from away and former professors of the University of the West Indies and other institutions. So you try to get a broad as possible committee that would reflect diverse views and experiences.”

Last month the Education Minister Dr Wheatley said the decision to lower the Exit Proficiency Exam is to protect the interests of students in the long-term.

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20 Comments

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  1. We in trouble says:

    I would like to know what flaws the minister found in the exit exam and whether he has spoken to his ministry officers about these “flaws” he claim to have found only after 90 days into the job. The “flaws” I believe he found were parents calling him after their children didn’t meet the mark and then political pressure set in and so he lowered the pass mark to appease.

    Like 41
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    • @We in trouble says:

      Did the Minister use those words? Or was it Mr Elroy Turnbull – a former Chief Education Officer?? Please re-read the article.

      • We in trouble says:

        Well since you have been soo helpful, can you tell us the reason why the exam pass mark was lowered. And don’t feed us the hog wash that it was lowered to meet the school pass mark. Some of us are allergic to nonsense. Why was the exam grade lowered? And while you’re at it tell us how many students walked that did not make the 60% requirement? I heard it’s in double digits. Please confirm.

  2. Dangerous times says:

    I am wondering if this minister understands what he has done. He has said the exit exam was flawed without saying exactly what those flaws were bringing into question the professional ability of his education officers and the integrity of a government sanctioned exam. Does he understand what he has just done? You are telling the world that your school leaving exam is flawed? And without one shred of evidence to show it is flawed except to say that the pass mark for in school exams is 50%?
    And what is more alarming, he pulled down the integrity of the exam just to justify his inability to say “no” to parents. If your child didn’t pass let the child go through the remidiation and do the re-take.
    What this minister did in my view is unforgivable.

    Like 35
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    • Hah says:

      Do you realize that the 60% was only done less than 4 years ago? This is a non issue and only a problem for people with political motivation. We didn’t need this 60% for over 70 years of BVI schooling history now all of a sudden it is deemed crucial or necessary. It is a plus if the 60% stayed but definitely not a negative if it goes.

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  3. Quiet Warrior says:

    Full- throatedtively support former Chief Education Officer and Permanent Secretary Elroy Turnbull view. If indeed the EPE exam was flawed, the flaw(s) should have been fixed or exam canned altogether. Instead, Dr. Hon. Natalio “Sowande Uhuru” Wheatley, MECAFY, lowered the standard. Well, lowering the bar is neither in the students nor the national best interest. It created a false security and a false impression.

    The bar should be set so that it takes hard work and perspiration to scale/surmount it; it should not have been lowered so that students can just walk over it. This may be to just puff up the numbers to make the ministry/school look good. It should be about the students proficiency.

    Why it seems the VIP is moving at the speed of lighting to change everything? Though it was elected as a change agent, it must effect sensible, timely, strategic and value adding changes. The hare and tortoise fable says slow and steady wins the race. It will serve the government well to slow down, dot the I’s and cross the T’s.

    Like 23
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    • Invigilator says:

      I wonder if that’s how he got his Masters and PHD. Just saying.

      Like 6
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    • @Quiet Warrior says:

      Even if the score was lowered to 50% passing students would not be able to “just walk over it.” as you think. The problem is most of the information on those test are not covered in the classrooms and some students don’t know how to answer the questions. A lot of students guess answers without having prior knowledge about the areas. Even if students get the answers wrong they don’t even get to know which area they may be weak in and to improve on those areas. They just need to stop testing areas not covered by the syllabus.

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      • So Wait says:

        You are telling me that consumer arithmetic has to be covered in Grades 11 and 12 for students to be tested on fairly? You are telling me that teachers should be privy to the test to prepare students for the exams? You are telling me that the only way our students can be successful is for a teacher to teach to a test for a letter grade to be stamped and our students are labeled as smart or ready to graduate because they passed after being taught to a test? Thats what you telling me?

        Like 4
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        • To far East is West says:

          Stop wilfully misunderstanding the comment.

          I come from an educational background that had a curriculum to be followed. It wasn’t about spoon feeding, it was about a certain criteria of knowledge based ideas and standards to be taught. If those standards are taught, then yes, a student can answer a question based on the standard and the knowledge based idea. If the idea is never introduced to them – how are they expected to know it? – If as an adult an idea is never introduced to you, you are telling me that an employer should have the expectation that you would perform a task with competency when you don’t know what you are doing?
          That is what happens with this exit exam, the kids are taught a set of knowledge based ideas and then test on a whole new set of knowledge based ideas and standards that were NOT taught to them.
          Over the course of these exams if you have students, those that pass and those that have not passed tell you the same thing – there were things there that they have never been taught – how do you continue to justify that the problem is them, when they vary from year to year but the examination system stays the same?
          at some point you must acknowledge that the problem is the examination system.

          In my opinion the thing needs to be done away with altogether, because it is a flawed system of valuation of the level of education that each child receives, based upon a generic test!

          It begs the question – Are you saying that the 4/5/6 years they spend in high school is worthy or worthless based upon the whether they passed or failed this generic test?

          Is that really the message? Then why are they going?

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          • my too cents says:

            Why do they not utilize the results of the CSCEC which is independent as the benchmark for graduation? This will ensure students are on par with their Caribbean neighbours.
            Most Caribbean Countries graduation certificate is the CXC/CSEC results that shows that the student has attained qualifying grades after passing exams by a well established independent body.
            Its 2019 time to raise the bar and stop living in a bubble.

      • Quiet Warrior says:

        Other than in the BVI, 50% is a failing grade; typically, 70% is the minimal passing grade. Lowering the bar below Internationallly accepted minimum standard is a disservice to both students and the territory. Set the bar to a surmountable level and challenge students to hurdle it. The planned approached is telling students that they are not on par with students in the developed world and needs a helping hand for a sense of equality. If you set low standards, the outcome come is low quality; whereas, it high, attainable standards are set, you invariably get high quality results. Education is a critical spoke in the national development hub; don’t water it down.

    • @We in trouble says:

      Did the Minister use those words? Or was it Mr Elroy Turnbull – a former Chief Education Officer?? Please re-read the article.

    • @Quiet Warrior #2 says:

      The Minister had to lower it out of necessity at such a critical time. He couldn’t just do away with it altogether because there were legitimate expectations that you wouldn’t change up the whole thing at or after exam or on the heels of graduation. You have to think of those students who are performing well on the present system despite its perceived flaws. You don’t want to disenfranchise them. Now he has time to implement something more workable for the new school year and beyond.

      Like 2
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      • Quiet Warrior says:

        Other than in the BVI, 50% is a failing grade; typically, 70% is the minimal passing grade. Lowering the bar below Internationallly accepted minimum standard is a disservice to both students and the territory. Set the bar to a surmountable level and challenge students to hurdle it. The planned approached is telling students that they are not on par with students in the developed world and needs a helping hand for a sense of equality. If you set low standards, the outcome come is low quality; whereas, it high, attainable standards are set, you invariably get high quality results. Education is a critical spoke in the national development hub; don’t water it down.

  4. vip heckler says:

    This is called moving from “good to great” so to speak>>>>>>>>>LOLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!!

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  5. Amazing says:

    The Minister is advice by SOME people who do not know their a**e from their elbow . The High School Academic ********* cannot string a proper sentence together yet they. Fighting for power . All the women Principal fighting behind each other’s back for the Principal position and not one of the fit for the post . YThey do not know the first thing about professionalism . They need to begin by saying good morning
    Or good afternoon to their staff . That is the beginning of good moral strength. Get out of their office and walk around and visit the classes if it is just two minutes per month. Let the students feel their presence . Mingle with the students get to know their names etc . A leader does not have to be a bully . A great leader listens to all of her staff and establish a working relationship with each staff member .Defend and love your staff regardless where they are from. Some fine points . None of them who want to lead have a clue

    • @amazing says:

      What is most amazing is, you should take the beam out of your eyes so that you can see how to structure your own sentences before criticising others.

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