Teachers propose payment for marking SBAs

In a written submission to the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the education system, several teachers of the Bishops’ High School are advocating for teachers to be paid to mark those School Based Assessments (SBAs) which are part of the requirement for the external examinations conducted by the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC).

The teachers cite nine reasons which individually and collectively support their argument that teachers should receive financial compensation for marking the assessments.

“We propose a flat pay package for all teachers tasked with conducting the SBA, which is subject to review every three years. For each subject with a SBA component, a fixed sum of US$200 seems to be just about fair, considering the nature of the work involved and the fact that US$200 is roughly three times less than what the average marker gets for marking CXC exams,” the teachers say in their submission.

The teachers argue that it is not logical for teachers employed as examiners by the council be paid to mark the written examinations and not the SBAs.

“Both assessments–exams and SBAs– are simply different aspects of the same product sold by CXC. To pay for the input of one but not the other is logically inconsistent,” they note, particularly since students are required to pay to sit the examinations.

In such a case, they argue, profits of the council are “subsidized by [the] free labour” of teachers, without whose management of the SBA students and CXC would be unable to receive the full benefits of their trade.

The issue, according to the teachers, “is that CXC profits from selling its product while teachers’ labour inputs go uncompensated. On purely ethical grounds alone, the current arrangement is as unsavoury as it is unfair.”

Further, the SBA, which is externally conceived and designed is in no way controlled by the teacher, since all major decisions are made by CXC, as are deadlines and sanctions. Teachers, however, are held personally responsible for all SBA-related work and are ultimately accountable to the ministry and CXC for students’ performance.

This translates to “sanctions for the school/ students when work is poorly done, or poor teacher reviews from SBA moderators” yet there is no compensation or reward for a job well done.

Additionally, they say this “extra workload” often becomes untenable for the simple reason that there is insufficient time allotted to the time-table to perform dual duties–SBA and non-SBA work/regular duties. Teachers, they argue, have little alternative but to take work home to meet deadlines set by the ministry and CXC—a strain compounded by the fusion of CAPE and CSEC syllabi in one school—and as a result teachers face consistent tension and anxiety which has contributed to a high level of resignation. They said many teachers indicate that they have considered resigning or know a teacher who has left the service because of workload commitment.

“The sheer volume of work alone merits compensation for the conduct of the SBA. Associated tasks range from initial contact with students; to supervision; to marking and inputting scores in various formats. Additionally, the SBA workload is particularly acute when the teacher is responsible for more than one subject,” the teachers explain.

They argue that if teachers are given a financial stake in the process, there will be less apprehension and misgivings about preparing students for the SBA since many teachers feel that SBA work is separate from their normal duties, thus they have the legitimate expectation of being rewarded for their services over and above their basic income.

The teachers’ submission comes one year after the Caribbean Union of Teachers (CUT) reissued a demand for CXC to compensate teachers for the formulation, supervision, marking and data entry of SBAs. It also comes one year after the Barbados Secondary Teachers Union (BSTU), with backing from the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT), implemented a boycott of the SBAs. However, there was no positive response.

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