Education Ministry says NO GSAT changes before the examination in March

The Ministry of Education is reassuring stakeholders that although it is in the preliminary stages of looking at making changes to the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT), NO changes will be made before the sitting of the examination in March.

The Ministry wants input from parents, teachers, principals, students and other stakeholders before it makes any changes to the GSAT. People can e-mail their ideas to the Ministry at gsat@moe.gov.jm or write the Permanent Secretary at Ministry of Education, 2 National Heroes Circle, Kingston 4.

The move to make changes to the examination follows a preliminary study by the Ministry which shows that GSAT is not adequately meeting the demands of the nation’s changing education sector.

The examination was created to determine achievement or mastery of the curricula of Grades Four, Five and Six of primary school.

However, the education system must now confront seriously the readiness of children for secondary education, which requires a child to be literate and numerate, and of a disposition to learn. GSAT, though an attainment test, has been used as a crude mechanism for placing students.

The preliminary study unearthed the following findings:-

  • The current profile of GSAT is not best suited to the objectives of the Revised Primary Curriculum.
  • Placement at Grade Seven and measurement of attainment at the end of Grade Six by one examination are anomalous and can lead to inequity in placement at the secondary level.
  • Current practice promotes competition in placement but does not provide for real equity.
  • The GSAT experience is very stressful for students, parents and teachers. Some students called the experience scary, and complained that the demands of the examination are too stressful. Teachers say it is difficult to get children focused, and it is hard to develop students’ thinking skills because of limited time to cover the curriculum in Grade Six. Teachers also say students cram for the examination, are unable to manage the extent of the work and the focus on GSAT reduces concentration on important skills and subjects.
  • There are questions about whether it’s appropriate for an end of Grade Six test to be given before all of the Grade Six curriculum is covered.
  • Some education stakeholders believe the use of one final exam should be changed.

Among the outcomes of the analysis of the examination is a suggestion that GSAT should be based on an age band and not limited to one sitting for the purpose of placement. There is also the suggestion that strategies should be explored to improve placement decisions and provide more equitable access to secondary education. Among the strategies being considered are a student identification numbering system, the ranking and classification of schools, the zoning of schools, and the creation of a School Improvement Act aimed at helping in the expansion of quality school places.

A number of recommendations came out of the study. They include the following:-

  • The mechanism for placement should not be linked to GSAT.
  • Continuous assessment should be used to measure attainment at the end of Grade Six.
  • Mechanisms should be developed for determining readiness for Grade Seven which focus on skills rather than content.
  • National standards for high schools should be established and enforced.
  • Value-added reports for secondary schools should be published.

Other proposals include putting the assessment of readiness for Grade Seven at the end of Grade Six. The assessment of readiness should be gender sensitive, based on differences in development due to age.

Contact: Colin Blair
Director, Communications
Ministry of Education
Telephone: 502-5828
Email: colin.blair@moe.gov.jm

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