Steady appears to be the best word to describe the Carib-bean Advance Proficiency Examination (CAPE), both in terms of its growth and the performance of candidates

The Encarta Dictionary describes ‘steady’ in these terms: steady: fixed, stable, or not easily moved.
Steady: coming in a regular nonstop flow.
While both meanings appear somewhat contradictory on the surface, they actually appropriately describe the state of CAPE this year. Steady growth in candidate numbers and remaining steady in candidates’ performance.
In its 14th year, the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE), which replaced the traditional A’levels in the region, continues to grow steadily and performance has remained very steady.
This year the number of Unit entries increased from 108,379 last year to 109,880 entries, an increase of 1,501 entries.
The number of candidates writing CAPE also increased this year when compared with previous years. This year 28,043 candidates wrote CAPE, compared with 27,596 candidates in 2011, an increase of 447 candidates.
Communications Studies continues to be the largest subject with 15,040 candidates writing it in 2012. Caribbean Studies is next with 11, 481 candidates; Sociology Unit 1 with 5,680; Pure Mathematics with 5,462 and Management of Business Unit 1 with 5,000 round off the five most subscribed Units.

Sixth Form at Queen’s College
Sixth Form at Queen’s College

Steady at 89
For the fifth consecutive year, 89 per cent of the Unit entries submitted for CAPE achieved acceptable grades, which are Grades I – V. This year, 13.91 per cent of the entries achieved Grade I; 18.53 per cent gained Grade II; 21.94 per cent Grade III; 19.46 gained Grade IV and 15.92 per cent achieved Grade V.

Sciences
Performance in all the science subjects continues to be very satisfactory. In Biology Unit 1, there was an eight per cent improvement in performance this year. Eighty-nine per cent of entries achieved Grades I to V compared with 81 per cent last year, while in Unit 2, 95 per cent of entries achieved acceptable grades compared with 96 per cent last year. Of those gaining acceptable grades, 25 per cent achieved at the highest level – Grade I.
In Chemistry performance remained stable in both Units. Eighty per cent of the entries achieved acceptable grades in Unit 1 compared with 81 per cent achieving the same grade last year. For Unit 2, 92 per cent of entries achieved Grades I –V compared with 91 per cent last year. An impressive 29 per cent of those entries gained Grade I.
Physics Unit 1 returned the same performance as in 2011 with 94 per cent of entries achieving Grades I – V. In Unit 2, there was a slight improvement this year. Ninety-three per cent of entries achieved Grades I-V compared with 92 per cent last year.
Both Units of Environmental Science saw a two per cent improvement in performance. Ninety-four per cent of entries achieved acceptable grades this year compared with 92 per cent in 2011, while 95 per cent of entries for Unit 2 achieved similar grades this year compared with 93 per cent last year.

Geography
Performance on both units of Geography declined marginally when compared with 2011. However, the Subject Awards Committee (SAC) expressed grave concerns about the direction of Geography in the school curriculum in some countries.
Ninety-one per cent of the entries for Unit 1 achieved acceptable grades, compared with 93 per cent in 2011. For Unit 2, 84 per cent of the entries achieved acceptable grades compared with 90 per cent in 2011.
The percentage of candidates attaining Grades I and II continues to be very low, eight per cent in Unit 1 and five per cent in Unit 2.
“Candidates are still grappling with basic definitions and concepts in Geography. Key terms are misunderstood. The differences among social, economic and physical phenomenon continue to baffle candidates,” the SAC commented in its report.
The SAC noted a shift at the curriculum level, (in ministries of education) where Geography is no longer taught as a separate subject in the lower secondary school. “Its infusion in the Social Studies programme represented a radical shift and an evaluation of its effects on formerly core subjects such as History and Geography should have been built into the programme,” the SAC stated.
The SAC is also calling for the strengthening and resuscitation of Geography Associations to assist with the development of the skills of younger teachers.

Mathematics
There was mixed performance in the four Units of Mathematics. Pure Mathematics saw improved performance on both units, while for Applied Mathematics it was the opposite. In Applied Mathematics Unit 1, entries achieving acceptable grades stood at 83 per cent this year compared with 84 per cent last year, while in Unit 2, the decline was more significant, from 89 per cent in 2011 to 80 per cent this year.
The decline was attributed to decline in performance on Module 1 and 2, Discrete Mathematics and Mechanics. Seventy per cent of the entries for Pure Mathematics Unit 1 achieved Grades I – V this year, compared with 66 per cent last year, while for Unit 2, 83 per cent achieved acceptable grades compared with 81 per cent in 2011.
The Subject Awards Committee for Pure Mathematics has recommended that students wishing to pursue the subject first complete the Additional Mathematics now offered at CSEC.

Single Units
The two single Unit subjects at CAPE – Caribbean Studies and Communication Studies performed very well and saw improvements. For Caribbean Studies, 95 per cent of the entries achieved Grades I – V compared with 84 per cent last year. Ninety-seven per cent of the entries for Communication Studies achieved Grades I – V compared with 95 per cent last year.
In Accounting Unit 1, performance remained steady at 95.71 per cent compared with 96 per cent last year. Economics Unit 1 and Economics Unit 2 saw a seven per cent and five per cent decline in performance respectively. Eighty per cent of entries for Unit 1 achieved acceptable grades this year compared with 87 per cent last year, while in Unit 2, 82 per cent of entries achieved similar grades compared with 87 per cent last year.
Like Economics, performance on Management of Business remained satisfactory, but there was a slight decline in both Units. Eighty-five per cent of entries achieved Grade I – V this year compared with 88 per cent last year, while 96 per cent of entries for Unit 2 achieved Grades I –V this year compared with 97 in 2011.

Technology
Three of the four technology units saw improvement in performance this year. Information Technology Unit 2 saw a minor decline, from 96 per cent of acceptable grades in 2011 down to 94 per cent this year.
Performance on IT Unit 1 improved slightly, from 89 per cent of acceptable grades last year to 91 per cent this year.
Computer Science Unit 1 recorded a five per cent improvement in performance, with 92 per cent of entries achieving Grades I – V compared with 87 per cent last year; while in Unit 2 there was a slight improvement, from 87 per cent of acceptable grades last year to 88 per cent this year.

Humanities
French Unit 2 returned the best performance of all the subjects in the humanities cluster with 100 of entries achieving acceptable grades. Thirty-six per cent of the entries achieved Grade I and 26 per cent achieved Grade II. In all of the other humanities subjects, performance remained the same or declined.
Performance on French Unit 1 was excellent as well, with 95 per cent of entries achieving Grades I – V compared with 96 per cent in 2011.
For Spanish Unit 2, performance remained stable at 96 per cent for both 2012 and 2011. The two Units of Sociology recorded a seven percentage point and four percentage decline in performance respectively – 82 per cent of entries for Unit 1 achieved acceptable grades compared with 89 per cent last year, while 92 per cent achieved similar grades in Unit 2 this year compared with 96 per cent this year.
Performance on both Units of Literatures in English fell marginally as well – for Unit 1, 92 per cent of entries achieved Grades I – V compared with 95 per cent in 2011, while 87 per cent achieved similar grades on Unit 2 compared with 94 per cent in 2011.
Law Units 1 and 2 recorded the identical performance this year – 81 per cent of entries achieving acceptable grades. This compared with 84 per cent on Unit 1 and 88 per cent on Unit 2 in 2011.

Technical Studies
Performance on most of the units in the Technical Studies cluster declined or remained the same when compared with 2011. However, both units of Art and Design and Food and Nutrition Unit 2 showed slight improvements.
Art and Design continues to be the best performing subject at CAPE with 100 per cent of entries in both units consistently achieving acceptable grades. Fifty per cent of the candidates achieved Grade I on Unit 2, while 36 per cent achieved Grade I in Unit 1.
Ninety-eight per cent of entries for Food and Nutrition Unit 2 achieved Grades I – V, up marginally from the 97 per cent in 2011. Candidates performed even better on Unit 1 with 99 per cent of entries achieving acceptable grades this year, the same as in 2011.
There was a decline in performance on Electrical and Electronic Technology Unit 2 with 72 per cent of entries gaining acceptable grades compared with 80 per cent last year, while performance on Unit 1 remained steady at 66 per cent.
The Subject Awards Committee in its report noted that candidates experienced difficulties with the mathematics/arithmetic parameters in questions. Among the Committee’s recommendations, are for schools to require students to have mathematical or scientific competence before doing the subject; and giving students practical exposure in an industrial environment.
For Geometrical and Mechanical Engineering Drawing there was a significant decline in performance on both units. There was a 35 per cent decline in Unit 1, with 61 per cent of entries achieving acceptable grades compared with 96 per cent last year, while in Unit 2, performance fell by 15 per cent, from 89 per cent in 2011 to 74 per cent this year.
In accounting for the decline, the Subject Awards Committee noted that students showed limited attention to detail and often provided incomplete responses to questions. “…Line-work, labelling, lettering and all drawing enhancements were quite deficient,” the SAC reported.

Reprinted from The Caribbean Examiner
Volume 10   No 2   October 2012

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