5 Online Resources to Help Chemistry Students ace This Year’s C-SEC Exams

The Caribbean Secondary Examination Council (C-SEC) Exam season has started.

It’s a season that many students along with teachers and parents approach with some trepidation, some optimism, and others with much skepticism. Especially when it has to do with Mathematics and hardcore science subjects such as Physics and Chemistry.

And one can hardly blame them. Over the last decade or certainly in the last three years, Math and Science CSEC pass rates from year to year have shown little improvement. Exam results show a consistent decline in student performance in these subject areas.

Look at these stats.

For the purpose of this post, I’ve lifted these quotes about performance in the Science subjects from the 2016 report posted by the Caribbean Examinations Council, the examining body that sets C-SEC exams for Caribbean students. On their website,www.cxc.org, the examination body reported “a mixed performance in the science subjects this year” with results recorded as follows:

Chemistry saw a three per-cent decline in performance this year when compared with 2015 with 56 per cent achieving acceptable grades this year compared with 59 percent in 2015.

There was a seven-point decline in performance on Integrated Science this year when compared with that of 2015, sixty-four per cent of entries achieved acceptable grades this year compared with 71 per cent in 2015.

Physics and Human and Social Biology improved marginally, the exam body reported.

It noted, “Performance on Physics improved marginally with 63 per cent of entries achieving Grades I-III this year compared with 61 per cent in 2015,” and  an “eight-percentage-point improvement in performance on Human and Social Biology this year, 53 per cent of entries achieved acceptable grades compared with 45 per cent in 2015.”Though a specialist area, Agriculture Science students performed best overall in this area of science,  with CXC.org reporting as follows:

“Both Agricultural Science Double Award and Agricultural Science Single Award recorded very good performance this year with slight improvement in the Single Award and slight decline in the Double Award. Ninety-two per cent of entries for Agricultural Science (Double Award) achieved acceptable grades this year compared with 94 per cent in 2015. Eighty-nine per cent of entries for Agricultural Science (Single Award) achieved acceptable grades this year compared with 87 per cent in 2015.”

Following the release of the results each year, the media has put a spotlight on the issue. The ensuing discussions have brought some insight into the reasons why the majority of Jamaican candidates are failing the Science subjects. C-SEC students have complained that the questions are challenging while some STEM educators here believe this is because students here are not making the necessary connections with real life and chemistry. One Ministry of Education STEM consultant who shared her views

One Ministry of Education STEM consultant who shared her views on a TVJ produced panel discussion, convened in 2015 to discuss the concerns over the declining pass rates in Math and Science, believes that the root of the student’s difficulty in addressing these ‘application’ level questions on exams stems from poor classroom preparation.hat same discussion, Math and Science teachers were challenged to integrate more high-level thinking and deeper learning strategies in their classrooms.

Out of that same discussion, Math and Science teachers were challenged to integrate more high-level thinking and deeper learning strategies in their classrooms.

Of course,  these are strategies that will benefit students right across the national curriculum, but Science and Math subject requires a stronger push at this time if we are to see an uptick in the C-SEC Math and Science pass rates. The Ministry of Education has also launched campaigns like the observance of National Mathematics Week and a

The Ministry of Education has also launched campaigns like the observance of National Mathematics Week and a Math Counts Expo to help primary school children engage in the subject.

To address the inherent fear for Math among citizens said to be the Ministry also embarked on television advertising to encourage Jamaicans to embrace Mathematics instead of fearing it. An emphasis on STEM in the school system and an e-Learning portal where students can freely access learning resources for Science and other subjects form part of the government’s plan to turn around the attitudes of Jamaican students and their parents to the Sciences.

One may argue that in this age of information and the world wide web, finding resources should never have been an issue for any student or teacher seeking supplemental material to expand on topics.

As a parent and teacher, I have found that there are enough free resources online to draw on, but it appears that many of us, especially our students, are not doing the needed research or maybe do not know where to start looking. Hence, the purpose of this post is to show you a few resources that will help prepare your child or student, if you’re an educator, tackle the C-SEC Chemistry curriculum. If your child is in lower school, these resources will also give them a head start in their Science studies.

The resources I’ve listed here are engaging and will help the Chemistry student learn the concepts faster as well as help them make those important real world connections. This is not a complete list, but you’ll find some interesting content to get your student or child interested. Here they are.

1. Science 360

Web page: (http://science360.gov/topic/Chemistry)

Sponsored by the National Science Foundation, Science360 is an up-to-date view of breaking science from around the world. The Science360 Video Library is a curation of the latest science videos which immerses visitors in the latest wonders of science, engineering, technology and math. The videos are provided by scientists, colleges and universities, science and engineering centers, the National Science Foundation and more. According to the site developers, Science360’s mission is to engage the general public, science junkies and students alike in the cutting-edge discoveries and big science stories of the day.

2. Ted-Ed video lessons

Web page: (http://ed.ted.com/periodic-videos)

Kids wishing to learn the entire periodic table can view a full TED-ed Lesson on each and every element in the Periodic table created by the team at Periodic Videos. Choose an element from the table found here: lessons allow kids to watch a video hosted by scientists on the element. Videos include demonstrations and explanations of the element. Students and teachers can Watch the video. For a short quiz on what was learned, click on THINK. To learn more, use DIG Deeper to find additional resources that will help your child/student see how the science is applicable in the universe. Join open and guided discussions through the Discuss button. All the videos are created by video journalist Brady Haran, featuring real working chemists from the University of Nottingham.

3. Nature Chemistry

Web Page: nature.com

Nature Chemistry is an open access monthly journal dedicated to publishing high-quality papers that describe the most significant and cutting-edge research in all areas of chemistry. Select from any of the free open access articles and blogs available on nature chemistry to tap into a comprehensive and rounded perspective of “applied” chemistry that will enable the deeper thinking required by the CXC Chemistry curriculum.

Follow the site’s Sceptical Chymist blog (http://blogs.nature.com/thescepticalchymist/) and in particular the Your Element Round Up post found at http://blogs.nature.com/thescepticalchymist/2012/09/in-your-element-round-up.html for a round-up of essays done on elements in the periodic table. To access the series of essays, click on each non-faded element tile and it will links out to the essay about that element in the journal. These are currently free to access, the website informs.

Nature Chemistry also publishes review articles, news and views, research highlights about important work reported in other journals, commentaries, book reviews, correspondence, and analysis of the broader chemical picture beyond the laboratory — including issues such as education, funding, policy, intellectual property, and the impact chemistry has on society. In this way, the journal aims to be the voice of the worldwide chemical community. Use this subject index to find what you are looking for.

4. Khan Academy

Web Page: (https://www.khanacademy.org/science/chemistry)

Khan Academy is among a growing number of sites called open education resource sites which offer learning resources to the public free of cost. Khan Academy offers practice exercises, instructional videos, and a personalized learning dashboard that empower learners to study a range of subjects at their own pace in and outside of the classroom. “We tackle math, science, computer programming, history, art history, economics, and more. Our math missions guide learners from kindergarten to calculus using state-of-the-art, adaptive technology that identifies strengths and learning gaps. We’ve also partnered with institutions like NASA, The Museum of Modern Art, The California Academy of Sciences, and MIT to offer specialized content,” the website declares on their About page. The site owners tout the site as a global classroom, noting that resources are available in more than 36 languages in addition to the Spanish, French, and Brazilian Portuguese versions of the site.

5. Slow Motion Science films

Free! Slow Motion Science videos deliver as advertised: explosive methane bubbles, water rockets, Coke+Mentos bombs, and microwaved CDs– all in super-slow motion. The videos are a labour of love from the U.K.-based creator, Sam Hankin who recorded science experiments, a total of 30GB worth of video footage, in high resolution at 400 frames per second to 3000 frames per second. The videos were then compressed into a web-friendly format for our viewing pleasure. Physics and chemistry teachers will find among the collection, great lecture supplements and topics for inquiry-based learning. For students, the videos will be a treasure trove that you can use to demystify those abstract chemistry concepts.

So, there you have it. Five links to Chemistry resources which will help lift your child/students Knowledge, comprehension and application profiles in the next Chemistry examination.

This is certainly not an exhaustive list, so feel free to share any additional resource that you’ve come across and that you could recommend.

Wish you every success in your upcoming exams.


News Update: New Principal for Cumberland High following Recent Disciplinary Breakdown


Car belonging to Cumberland Principal, Michael Brydson showing mirror broken allegedly by a female student who was reportedly involved in a dispute with the Principal on the school compound last week Friday

News Update on Cumberland High.  Friday, April 28, 2017

A new principal is to be appointed for Cumberland High come September 2017. According to Minister of Education Ruel Reid, the contract for acting principal, Michael Brydson ended last month and apparently will not be renewed. A breakdown of discipline and an altercation between a female student and Mr Brydson brought about the Ministry’s intervention.

Last week, the Ministry of Education reacted to cries from staff and school leaders for improves safety and security for teachers and students at the Cumberland High School. The intervention by the Minister rose out of a dispute at the school which put the school under intense media glare for the greater part of last week. On Thursday, it was announced that two security measures were to be implemented to return order to the St Catherine-based school campus.

This report was filed last Friday.

As a result of several high-level meetings that took place this week between the Minister of Education, Senator the Hon. Ruel Reid, school administrators and stakeholders, work will start immediately to erect a long-awaited perimeter fence around the school while an assistant Dean of Discipline will be deployed at the school to boost security and safety, reports released by JIS and RJR News confirmed on Thursday.

The corrective actions come after the Ministry and school came under week-long media scrutiny for what has been described as “a break-down of order” at the school after a dispute involving acting principal of the school, Michael Brydson and a female student of that institution last Friday, April 7, 2017.

Here is a timeline of the incidents leading up to the recent announcements.


Michael Brydson, Acting Principal of Cumberland High School, St Catherine Photo Credit: RJRNews Online

According to media reports, last Friday a female student used a stone to break the windscreen of the car belonging to Acting Principal, Michael Brydson after he reportedly chided her for using  expletives in his presence.

The girl later told reporters that the administrator had hit her with an implement he had in hand at the time which conflicting reports described as a stick; another report said it was a rule. Her mother has subsequently claimed that her child was abused.

On Monday, April 10, teachers at the school then reportedly staged a sit in to protest attacks on staff,  RJR reported.

The Gleaner reported on Tuesday that classes were disrupted for the second day at the school. Representatives from the Ministry of Education led by Director for Safety and Security in Schools at the Ministry, Sergeant Coleridge Minto visited the school and had a meeting with the restive teachers on the same day.

On Wednesday, Mr Brydson spoke to the media denying an allegation he said was circulating that he had physically assaulted the teen.

RJR News attributed these comments to the Cumberland High Principal who was speaking in an interview with the media house:

“That is very unfortunate that an incident like that happened…and just to clarify that that beating, and ‘boxing’ and stepping in the girl’s back – that never took place and would never happen under my watch,” he asserted.

“Pressed as to whether he did beat the student with the stick, the principal responded: “The child was reprimanded and she got upset over it, ” RJR News Online reported.


Classes were disrupted for two days at Cumberland High. Here, restive teachers at Cumberland High stage a sit-in protest.

Ministry Moves to Correct Security Complaints

Following the much-publicised incident in the media, Minister of Education, Mr Ruel intervened and summoned the acting principal along with the school board to a meeting. Minister Reid told Cliff Hughes of Nationwide News that discipline and order had broken down at the school and the Ministry would be taking steps to correct this. It was also disclosed that the school has been without a Principal since the passing of former principal Ms Dahlia Black in 2015. Mr. Brydson has been acting in the position since then. The journalist questioned why the school which has been deemed a failing school since 2012 had not warranted action on the part of the ministry and school officer prior to this.

Following the week’s spotlight, other problems facing the school have come to the fore. One issue, the lack of a perimeter fence has long created security and truancy issues for the school, Mr. Brydson told the radio station.

News that this perimeter fencing would be immediately addressed by the Ministry of Education was relayed by Mr Brydson who expressed pleasure at the development.

“Mr. Brydson states that this is being corrected,” an RJR article reported, quoting the acting principal as saying this:

“The ministry is working on the fencing as we speak because the last time we had an incident like this, we were promised some advancement in the work and so far we have done some measuring and I am expecting some work to start through this new budget,” he outlined on RJR’s Beyond The Headlines on Wednesday.

He said this would prevent students from going over the fence “as easily as they now do” and also prevent outsiders from invading the school property.”

The report was corroborated by a JIS report released on Thursday which also stated that the school would also be getting an assistant Dean of Discipline.

For the full report, follow this link.

A November  2016 report also carried by the JIS documents the long-standing  security issues faced by the school.

According to that report, the issue had been first brought to the Ministry of Education late last year after “students at the school were recently attacked by outsiders who gained access to the compound.”

In an interview with media personnel following a meeting at the school on November 14, Portfolio Minister, Senator the Hon. Ruel Reid reportedly told the media that the institution would be provided with funding to acquire additional private security personnel.

The Ministry of Education had also “committed to putting in place several medium- to long-term security management strategies at Cumberland High School in Portmore, to mitigate the possibility of any further breaches,” the JIS produced report noted.

Mr. Reid had also promised that the Ministry would also be supporting the school in procuring and constructing perimeter fencing, which will make students safer as well as reduce the potential for truancy.

The Minister had also noted that the school was granted permission to hire an additional dean of discipline.

This week, the principal said that requests previously made to the Ministry of Education for more special education teachers had not yet been addressed.

Ministry technocrats attending that November 2016 meeting included a range of  school stakeholders, including acting principal Brydson: Deputy Chief Education Officer of School Operations, Dorrett Campbell; Assistant Chief Education Officer of Guidance and Counselling, Fern McFarlane; Director for Region Six, Maxine Headlam,  Board Chairman, Rupert Pryce; Education Officer, Barrington Richards; Member of Parliament for St. Catherine South Eastern, Colin Fagan, and other stakeholders.

The school’s Dean of Discipline, René Level, and Director for Safety and Security in Schools at the Ministry, Sergeant Coleridge Minto, were also in attendance.

Coming out of the 2016 meeting, the minister had reportedly told the media that the school’s leadership had been tasked with putting in place a school-improvement plan and that the Ministry would be “working along with stakeholders to customise the curriculum to meet the needs of the cohort at Cumberland High.”

“We want Cumberland to be a centre of excellence where every student that comes here will excel, but we need to customise our instruction programme to meet the students where they are and take them to the level we want them to go,” Minister Reid had pronounced at that time.

But apparently, this is still in the pipeline. In his interview with Nationwide on Wednesday last, the Minister tendered a similar discourse. He stated that the school’s continued failings were tied to the school being established as a feeder for students with low scores in GSAT Examinations in the region.

He said that he would be taking a personal interest in the school towards resolving its most pressing problems and expediting necessary actions to turn the school around. He also said on air that a new Board would be appointed to replace the current one and that the Ministry would look into restoring leadership to the troubled institution.

Subsequent reports have not provided any further update on the promised new board appointments.

Investigations continue into the assault claims tendered by the student and parent against the school principal.

Up to press time, no updates had been issued on the outcome of these investigations which are being conducted by the Ministry of Education and the Children Services Department.



Portmore Basic School Gets Generous Cheque from JCAA to Support School’s Certification Goals – Portmore Citizens News


Principal-Marlin Avenue Basic School - accepts - representational - cheque - from - JCAA's Rohan Campbell

Principal of the Marlin Avenue Basic School in Portmore, St. Catherine, Margaret Campbell, accepts a representational cheque for $809,309.31 from the Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority’s Deputy Director General, Regulatory Affairs, Rohan Campbell. The presentation was made at the school on Monday, April 3. The cheque will be used to assist the school in achieving full certification under the Early Childhood Commission 12 Operating Standards for Early Childhood Institutions. Photo credit: Contributed Photo/JIS


On Monday, the Marlin Avenue Basic School in Portmore, St. Catherine received over $800,000 in financial aid from the Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority (JCAA). The gift will boost the school’s efforts to achieve full certification under the Early Childhood Commission’s (ECC) 12 Operating standards for Early Childhood Institutions (ECI).

According to a release from the Jamaica Information Service (JIS), on Monday, April 3, Deputy Director General of Regulatory Affairs at the Jamaica Civil Aviation Authority (JCAA), Rohan Campbell, presented the cheque valued at $809,309.31 to the principal of the School, Margaret Campbell, to assist in the certification process.

“We saw it as a great opportunity to assist. As an organisation that values Jamaica’s development, we have always had a great interest in supporting education. We are in the business of regulation and, therefore, appreciate the need for standards in early-childhood development,” Mr Campbell said.

The elated principal, Mrs. Campbell, was close to tears as she accepted the much-needed donation.

“We were strapped for cash and this injection will assist us to achieve certification. We are so grateful for the help of the Early Childhood Commission team and others who offered their support,” she said.

The funds will be used to improve lighting in the classrooms, establish a playground and repaint playground equipment and the school building.

Meanwhile, Member of Parliament for St. Catherine South, Fitz Jackson, who contributed the perimeter fencing for the school, added his support for the early-childhood standards.

“It’s a universally accepted fact that preparation of a child at the early-childhood level bears significance at the primary and secondary levels,” he noted.

Marlin Avenue Basic School was opened in 1979 and has 28 students enrolled and five members of staff, including two trained teachers.

The school has, so far, met 72 per cent of the operating standards required for certification by the ECC.

The 12 Standards for the Operation, Management and Administration of Early Childhood Institutions cover the areas of staffing; development and educational programmes; interactions and relationships with children; physical environment; indoor and outdoor equipment; health; nutrition; safety; child rights, child protection and equality; parent and stakeholder participation; administration and finance.



Fledgeling, New Entrant Cedar Grove Academy is Portmore’s Top Performing CAPE School

cedar grove high 2

6th Form students of Portmore-based high school, Cedar Grove Academy escorting former minister of Education, Ronald Thwaites during a June 2015 visit. Photo Credit: jis.gov.jm


Fledgling Portmore-based high school, Cedar Grove Academy, which entered a six form cohort for the first time in the 2015 sitting of the national Caribbean Proficiency Examinations (CAPE) examinations has outperformed a number of local and national academic stalwarts to emerge as the top performing Portmore-based school based on data published by education think tank publisher, Educate Jamaica.

The publication, CAPE (Pre-University) Rankings 2016 was released by Educate Jamaica last week. This post is a disaggregation of the data by outandaboutportmore.

Placing 34th among 103 schools with a 54.1 percentage pass rate, the two-year-old institution and “new entrant”to the exams has outperformed and outranked prominent Portmore flag bearer, Bridgeport High plus numerous other prominent national and Corporate area Caribbean Secondary Education (C-SEC) and CAPE high-flyers.

A Quality Score of grades i-iii (1-3) in 2 or more CAPE subjects (units) was used as the benchmark to rate the schools, Educate Jamaica has explained to justify its ranking methodology.

Cedar Grove Academy was ranked just behind neighbouring Jonathan Grant High (another unexpected achievement) located 10 minutes away, in Spanish Town.

Traditional High Performers See Downward Slide

The school outperformed three other Portmore area schools, namely Bridgeport High which slipped two places down to rank 48 this year with a 34.9 % pass rate and Ascot High which saw marginal improvement over the previous year but still ranked 69. Ascot was assigned a 18.3 % pass rate. Cumberland High, also a first time CAPE entrant, received a 0% pass rate and placed second to last in the Educate Jamaica rankings.

Cedar Grove Academy also outperformed traditional C-SEC/academic ranking high-flyers such as Manchester High, Munro High, and York Castle High (new entrant) as well as a number of prominent Corporate area schools such as St George’s High, Calabar High and Jamaica College, all of which slipped noticeably in this year’s rankings, having failed to meet the quality of passes criteria designated by Educate Jamaica to make the cut for Top Performing Schools.

Top 10 Performing CAPE Schools

Only 10 percent of the island’s secondary schools made the top 10. Over 83 percent of the candidate cohort from these “top tier” schools met the Quality Score assigned by Educate Jamaica. New entrant Montego Bay High with a 100 percentage pass rate, unseated Campion High to claim the top spot in this year’s CAPE rankings.

A further disaggregation of the newest Educate Jamaica CAPE rankings places St Jago High, with 68.4 percentage pass in 18th place,  as the top performing St Catherine school, followed by St Catherine High, which ranks at no. 30.

First batch, First time

According to this JIS report, the Cedar Grove Academy opened its doors in September 2013 to 86 Grade 7 students. The school also started with 35 sixth formers in two faculties, the Humanities and Sciences, with strong emphasis placed on a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) curriculum.

The current rankings would have been generated by the school’s first batch of six formers who sat the 2015 CAPE exams.

EDUCATE JAMAICA (educatejamaica.org) which describes itself as a social enterprise education entity, also publishes C-SEC and GSAT performance rankings for the island’s schools.