Candidates sitting the Caribbean Examinations Council's (CXC) regular and advanced level external examinations now have the benefit of the organization's newly published study guides, to boost their preparations.
The CXC, in partnership with British publishing firm, Nelson Thornes, has published some 19 study guides this year, covering 11 subject titles in the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC), and eight in the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE).
Subjects covered under the CSEC include: English A (Language) and B (Literature); Mathematics; Integrated Science; Social Studies; Information Technology; Office Administration; Principles of Business; Economics; Religious Education; and Geography. The CAPE subjects are: Biology; Chemistry; Physics; Communication Studies; Caribbean Studies; Economics; Geography; and Accounting.
The guides, which were officially unveiled earlier this year during a ceremony hosted by the CXC in Kingston, are available in countries across the region that are members of the Council.
The publications are the realization of a joint commitment by CXC and Nelson Thornes in June 2011, to undertake development and delivery of additional resources for CXC subjects under CSEC and CAPE, over the ensuing 18 months. They are also the culmination of work which the Council started on the guides back in 2003.
Outlining, during the launch, CXC Assistant Registrar, Curriculum and Syllabus Development and co-author of the study guides, Gerard Philip, explained that the subject syllabuses are broken down into chapters, with each page illustrating a new topic.
Other key features: case studies; colour coding of key points; exam-style, essay-type and multiple-choice questions at the end of each chapter; a glossary of key terms; and an interactive compact disc comprising 100 questions, split into quizzes comprising 10 questions each.
Mr. Philip said a “concerted and meticulous approach” was taken to developing the study guides. He pointed out that the drafting team comprised persons with years of experience teaching the CXC syllabuses.
“In most instances, they included the chief examiner, examiners in the particular subject areas (and persons) who have served...in the field of education for a number of years……and know intricately, the depth that is required in various objectives and content, which is invaluable to students, who are reading a number of books and accessing a lot of information,” he stated.
Mr. Philip said that the study guide will prove an “invaluable resource”, as it will assist in developing effective study skills, improve examination techniques, help students discover their personal learning styles, manage their time efficiently, and learn the best way to prepare for their examinations.
“The study guide does not replace the textbook at any point, but hones the skills in specific areas. Key competencies… (are)…stressed so that students accessing (them) are honing into critical knowledge areas,” Mr. Philip added.
Pro Registrar for the CXC, Glenroy Cumberbatch, said the rationale for the study guides was based on, among other things, the exponential growth in the number of candidates registering across the region to sit the exams and the need identified to provide material that can assist them in their preparations.
He pointed out that the number of candidates sitting the external exams at the end of the 2011/12 academic year, in May and June stood at 184,000 for CSEC and 28,000 CAPE. More than half of the persons sitting the exams, particularly in the CSEC, he disclosed, were “out of school” candidates.
"So, the audience that we are preparing exams for has increased…and it makes it even more important that the materials that we make available are materials that both groups of persons can use,” the Registrar said.
Having encountered several hurdles, which delayed the commencement of work on the initiative, Mr. Cumberbatch said Nelson Thornes was selected from a group of publishers with whom the CXC met in Barbados in 2008. The invitees, he outlined, were asked to submit proposals on how best they could partner with CXC in providing the resources necessary to support the Council’s work.
"We had local companies, which put forward proposals for our pass papers and our syllabuses, but Nelson Thornes did the study guides. We were looking, specifically, to get help in taking those study guides (previously attempted) and putting them to a point, in terms of (making them) attractive…(including) adding colour (and) doing all the wonderful things that we could not do because we were on a (shoe) string budget,” the CXC Registrar stated.
Nelson Thornes’ Lead Publisher, Oliver Thornton, who noted that the publication of the study guides was a “first” for the Caribbean, described the undertaking as a "commitment to education" by his firm and CXC.
He explained that Nelson Thornes entered into a five-year agreement with CXC to publish a series of study guides for Caribbean secondary school students. This, he informed, started in 2011, with the publication of resource material for English and Mathematics in the Caribbean Certificate of Secondary Level Competence (CCSLC).
This undertaking, he said, continued this year with publication the 19 CSEC and CAPE study guides. Another eight are scheduled to be published in 2013. “We think that there will probably be around 70 (study guides), when we have completed the programme," he said.
"This programme is a continuation of Nelson Thornes history in the region. We have had a commitment to education in the region for some 75 years. The (current) programme is ambitious and imaginative, and one that requires teamwork and cooperation. Our aim is to work together to provide an offering with a holistic approach that supports key specifications with suitable resources for students and teachers, and gives students the resources necessary to complete their courses successfully. Central to our vision is that students are provided with the means to excel," Mr. Thornton stated.
Guest speaker at the launch, Education Minister, Rev. the Hon. Ronald Thwaites, in welcoming the study guides, contended that “no one should fail if (they) have these excellently designed and pointed indicators, as to how you can pass your examinations.
"They appear, from a quick glance, to be so replete that I hope, indeed, that they will not be substitutes…for the textbooks, and for the discursive and critical exercises that lead to mental development and which add substance to the passes (in) examinations," the Minister said.
In endorsing the study guides, Managing Director of one of Jamaica’s and the Caribbean’s largest bookstores, Kingston Bookshop Limited, and Custos Rotulorum of Kingston, Hon. Steadman Fuller, said based on the publications’ contents and provisions, they “will add value to help them (students)”.
"These (guides) are essentials to support the effort of people sitting the examination; you (CXC) have a great product. Nelson Thornes has been the most prolific producer of CXC material for the various subjects in the high schools.
"They have been providing the platform for a number of Caribbean authors, including Jamaicans, to give their creative insight into what is needed (for our students). I congratulate both Nelson Thornes and CXC for this wonderful partnership, which is to the benefit of our children in the Caribbean,” Mr. Fuller said.