ALLOWING students to have access to their marked examination scripts is, or at least should be, a basic part of any system of education.
Not only do the principles of openness and fairness demand such access, but students stand to benefit greatly from the process of feedback. They can gauge their strengths. They can identify areas for improvement. And they can prepare for future assessments.
When it comes to high-stakes examinations like the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) and the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE), these exams come at terminal, transitional moments for students and there is intense competition. As a result, there is an even greater need for transparency.
But a recent court case reveals a quagmire of frustration when it comes to accessing scripts.
The Court of Appeal last week ruled SEA scripts can be disclosed by the Ministry of Education to parents who request them. However, the same does not apply to CAPE, because of the absence of a written agreement between the ministry and the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC), the body that sets and grades the annual examinations.
To read the details of this case is to be stunned by the mind-boggling steps the children and their families involved had to take to get to this point. They had to file Freedom of Information Act applications and then take the matter to the Supreme Court, with a full panel of the Court of Appeal deciding the issue.
At the very least, this case shows up a remarkable oversight in the admittedly convoluted system of examination administration being operated between the ministry and CXC under a series of agreements and laws.
It is that system which allowed the ministry to pass the buck and stall when confronted with the already lamentable situation of having to face legal action from students for what should have been, for all intents and purposes, a simple clerical matter.
It makes you wonder if there is an unstated fear among policymakers about students querying marks, and why. That the ministry was so inefficient that it failed to deal with these requests in a timely manner is one thing, that it may have dragged its feet so that time would elapse and the papers be destroyed by CXC another.
The court found the case of CAPE scripts to be ungoverned by agreement and therefore not subject to discovery. But it does not augur well when an individual student can be effectively penalised for the lack of basic provisions allowing them access to their materials.
Whatever the framers of the current systems had in mind, this issue clearly needs to be revisited to allow students to see results and question them.