Thursday, May 28, 2015

Book Review: Exams are the business of the OEC

Published in The Sunday Gleaner, May 3, 2015

Title: Administering Overseas Examinations in Jamaica – A History of the Overseas Examinations Commission, 1887-2007
Author: Patrick E. Bryan

Their mission is to “effectively and efficiently administer access to exams and provide applicable accompanying support”. Their watchwords? Integrity, reliability, innovation and efficiency.

With more than 128 years under its belt, the Overseas Examinations Commission (OEC) has been the silent champion of Jamaican futures: working behind the scenes to facilitate the smooth running of overseas examinations in the island.

Most people know about the importance of the Caribbean Examinations Council’s (CXC) flagship exams at the high-school level: the Caribbean Secondary Examinations Certificate (CSEC) and the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations (CAPE), but very few know about the OEC’s work to ensure that these exams are reliably and accurately administered every year.

In addition, the OEC oversees a United Kingdom-based international suite of secondary exams; conducts seminars for teachers, students and private candidates; prepares, issues, verifies and replaces exam results and certificates; collates exam statistics; and handles queries, re-mark requests and transcripts.

They have been the silent enablers of millions of Jamaicans who use these exams as stepping stones to tertiary education or as qualifiers for the world of work.
To celebrate their longevity, the OEC has published a book on the history of their organisation. Titled ‘Administering Overseas Examinations in Jamaica – A History of the Overseas Examinations Commission, 1887-2007’, the book, written by Professor Patrick Bryan, chronicles the development of the OEC from a small, voluntary committee to an internationally recognised commission.

In nine chapters, Bryan gives insight into the history of what has become an indispensable part of the Jamaican exams landscape. As he states in his introduction, the telling of the OEC’s story “is an extension of the story of high-school education and education policy in Jamaica”. The book will, therefore, prove useful for those seeking a deeper understanding of how the nation’s education and examination systems have developed over the years.

There are tables showing the figures for exam entrance fees, the numbers of candidates sitting these exams, and the passes in each over the years. There are also pictures of some of the country’s oldest and finest educational institutions and educators, as well as of chairmen and executive teams who have led the OEC.

Speaking on the relevance of this book to Jamaican history and heritage, Professor Bryan says, “One thing missing in Jamaica is solid work on its history of education. This is very important because education has been one of the major means of mobilisation for the poor man.”

“[Parents] want to be sure their children are sitting in exams where they can do their best. They want to know that when they get results, they can believe that that is what they did … that it is reliable internationally,” added Neville Ying, current chairman of the OEC. With this in mind, they have produced a book which shows how, over the years, the OEC has developed and implemented a system to ensure that exams are conducted with integrity, reliability, innovation and efficiency.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Meeting legacies ...

I feel so full up of life, I can hardly breathe.

I love it when I meet legacies. I love it when the universe sets me up for a pleasant surprise and lands me in the same room as someone with a powerful story that I needed to hear that they needed to share ... .

Enter RC here. I met the man and heard a piece of his story and felt like a very privileged human being. Do you know how awesome it is to get even a minute of insight? When someone who has lived through much of history bequeaths you a little bit of that?

A minute of insight - that's all I need. I will treasure that one minute. Give me one minute of your best life lessons, one minute of your most profound moment. Tip your heart over mine and give me just one drop from your heart's deepest wells. I'll take it. I'll treasure it. I'll use it like fuel to propel me into a better mental space and physical place ... I'm perpetually absorbing everlasting wealth.

You know how the sick pulled virtue out of Jesus? I pull virtue out of people. I draw on them till they give me their stories ...

And, this my friends know very well: I especially love the elderly. I love to tap into the minds of men whose memories are more plentiful than my entire lifetime's worth of experiences.

I heard a senior coworker give a classic quip the other day: I've forgotten more than you've lived through. It was a good comeback. We laughed at the young whippersnapper who thought he could take on her obvious reservoir of knowledge. But then I had to stop and think: I LOVE to share time and space with people who know so much, they've forgotten more than I've even learned! Minds like that ... overwhelm, fascinate, excite and interest me ... .

For sure, one of the best aspects of my job is that I get to meet legacies, and hear and share their stories. I love it. I love capturing heartsongs and singing them back, through pen and paper, to the next generation. And I hope that while I'm meeting legacies, I'm making legacies ...