JIS News

As the region prepares for the establishment of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) a number of sectors have been making the necessary changes to be better able to adjust to the transformation.
The Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) is among the sectors seeking to keep pace with an ever-changing era, through the introduction of the Associate Degree programme, which was recently launched.
The Associate Degree, which will be made available in nine disciplines, will commence this year.
Chairman of CXC and Principal of the University of the West Indies (UWI), Professor Kenneth O. Hall points out that the Associate Degree emerged in response to ongoing and imminent changes in the region. He notes that a regional institution like CXC must justify its relevance in this environment. “CXC must continue to play and assume most urgently its developmental role and that role requires that we address regional needs,” he says.
Professor Hall informs that the Associate Degree is intended for persons who require certification into entry into university and other tertiary institutions, employed persons seeking upgrade mobility in their careers, persons seeking study aimed at developing certain skills, and mature and part-time students who desire flexible and cost effective means of furthering their education.
“We believe that the Associate Degree, by being a regional qualification offered anytime any place, anywhere and not fixed to a particular institution or a particular body of staff but rather based on an assessment of its outcomes by a reputable institution, means that the award is transferable, it is internationally and regionally acknowledged and therefore provides a level of comparability so that when you have this qualification in Jamaica you can go to St. Kitts and Nevis, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and so on,” he explains. Meanwhile, Registrar of the CXC Dr. Lucy Steward informs that the introduction of the Associate Degree programme is a commitment of the Government of Jamaica to assist the examination body in the implementation of a regional programme at the national level. “CXC took the decision at its meeting in 2004 to award the Associate Degree based on clusters of subjects that are offered for Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE),” Dr. Steward says.
She further explains that the Associate Degree is based on a cluster of CAPE subjects and will be offered in nine areas, which include, business studies, computer science, environmental science, general studies, humanities, mathematics, modern languages, natural sciences and technical studies.
According to Dr. Steward, “CXC also took this decision (to offer the Associate Degree) based on an evaluation of the content of the CAPE programmes and a comparison with other Associate Degree programmes across the region.
For a student to be eligible for the degree, Dr. Steward explains that the individual must do a minimum of seven units. She emphasizes that for all the associate degrees, Caribbean studies and communication studies will be compulsory. There are also other compulsory courses depending on the particular associate degree.
“For example in the sciences the students must also do four compulsory units in the sciences, so we have followed the structure more or less of the associate degree offered across the region, with a general studies programme, then a core programme, and then options and as I said it is a minimum of seven units,” she explains.
In offering the Associate Degree Dr. Steward says, the CXC is aware that there are other established Associate Degree programmes in the region, and as relevant discussions are currently being held with tertiary institutions and the University Council of Jamaica (UCJ) as well as other bodies. “We know that we will be able to learn from these institutions, and from these bodies and take ideas that will help us strengthen the CXC Associate Degree programme,” she says.
She further informs that it is important to note that because of the flexibility of CAPE an individual can continue after school to take units in order to build up the number of required units for the Associate Degree programme. As a result the Council agreed that the programme would begin with persons taking the exam in 2005.
Persons can however, accumulate units over a period of five years in order to qualify for the Associate Degree. “Also we will continue to award the certificate and as a person completes a unit he or she will be awarded a certificate and will therefore be accumulating these certificates or units and we will be keeping track of the progress of the candidate until the person can be awarded the Associate Degree,” Dr. Steward elaborates.
The introduction of the degree will provide more options when candidates present their qualifications to tertiary level institutions within the region and overseas, according to Dr. Steward. “We have initiated that dialogue not only with the community colleges but with the universities in the region to determine the kind of articulation arrangements that may be possible and we are looking here at lateral articulation and vertical articulation,” she explains.
Dr. Steward says the Examination Council has also looked at ways of converting the grading system to credit points for persons who intend to transfer these credits to overseas institutions. “When persons go to other institutions outside the region and more so in the region now we look at the credits rather than the grades, and therefore in the handbooks that we have prepared we have looked at the conversion of grade to grade points,” she says.
Principal of Campion College and a member of the Jamaica Association of Principals of Secondary Schools, Radley Reid commends the Council on the introduction of the Associate Degree programme. “We have always contended that sixth form work is at the tertiary level.hence we are delighted and we hail CXC for this very progressive move,” he informs, adding that the CXC will have the full support of the schools and the principals.
Mr. Reid points out that when one studies the depth and the breadth of the CAPE syllabus, the number of hours required by teachers and students to complete the units, the resources needed, the mood of assessment both internally and externally with its quality assurance of validity and reliability, then there will be no doubt that the CXC Associate Degree is most timely and appropriate.
“The teachers and students will now be fully recognized for the work we have been doing and students will be given a good opportunity to have a wide or concentrated selection of subjects depending on the students’ future goal and aspiration,” he says.
He also expresses pleasure that communication studies and Caribbean studies are compulsory subjects in each of the degree programmes. What is also remarkable about the Associate Degree, Mr. Reid notes is the time span in which the degree should be completed. “In our secondary schools we are expected and should complete the degree in two years but the provision is made for those who could not sail on the boat for the first time. They have opportunities to sail many times. And also for those who are outside of the normal school structure who wish to further their education, they have the opportunity to do so at the tertiary level,” he says.
His hope is that the tertiary institutions in the region will give full recognition to this degree. The type of ‘recognition’, he alluded to, is of exemption with credit. “I don’t think we will have too much difficulty in getting it outside of the region, already universities and colleges in the United States do give exemption with credit for CAPE subjects which are passed at a particular level and so we do hope we will have this recognition in our own region,” he says.
The Associate Degree, Mr. Reid says, brings into sharp focus what principals and high school educators have been saying for a long time, which is that sixth form teachers are doing tertiary education work.
“We have the proof we graduate our students at fifth form where they move into community colleges and get Associate Degrees. We have students going to American universities and go on to a four year course and get their degree,” he says, adding, “that remuneration for teachers at this level must be different from Grades One to 11 teachers.
Executive Director of the UCJ, Dr. Ethley London, also commended the Council for the effort, which she describes as an alternative path, complimentary to what currently obtains in the local education system.
She points out that Associate Degrees have come a long way in the Caribbean as there are 12 Associate Degrees presently accredited by the UCJ in eight tertiary institutions, including four public and four private. Another 11 Associate Degrees, all from public institutions are in the initial stages of accreditation.
All together these degrees cover a wide range of disciplines in areas such as Agriculture, Natural Sciences, Information Technology (IT), Electronic Engineering, Management Information Systems, Business Administration, environmental studies, school counselling, industrial systems operations and maintenance, hospitality, entertainment and tourism.
“This kind of spread attests to the popularity of this type of certification among Jamaican students who regard Associate Degrees as flexible pathways suitable for the world of work as well as for further studies while gaining important knowledge, skills and attitudes,” Dr. London informs JIS News.
The majority of the graduates of these degrees, she says, have gone on to complete their bachelors at recognized institutions.
In North American universities, holders of accredited Associate Degrees from Jamaica have been seamlessly admitted and given maximum credits towards the Bachelor’s Degree, according to Dr. London.
Professor Elsa Leo-Rhynie who is in charge of graduate studies at the UWI Mona, also applauded the new Associate Degree. “CXC has taken the decision to package selected groups of its CAPE offerings and to award Associate Degree to those students who was successful in meeting the requirement as set out.
These programmes are exciting innovations and fit readily in the framework of relevance, responsiveness and of quality which are themes that are recurring in the cries for transformation and renewal in education,” she says.
She further notes that the relevance of this Associate Degree cannot be contested as it will assist in the response to the constant call for more and better education, as the region sought solutions to economic and social issues.
“We hope that participants will not be merely certificate chasers but will become infected by the vision of pursuing a comprehensive broad based programme, one which will demand best practice in our schools and community colleges,” she says.
She informs that the dialogue between the UWI and the Council regarding matriculation and credit transfer has already begun and that the UWI looks forward to the participation of the graduates in the undergraduate degree programme at that institution.

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