To avoid the pain of GSAT

The two days of trepidation are now over, and the more than 43,000 students who sat the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) can return to their normal lives… that is, until June when the results are released.

At that time, those who are not placed in their schools of choice will be devastated, and their parents will become angry, cursing the selection system as they scramble to secure transfers to one of the traditional high schools.

It’s all very painful to those parents and students who are deemed not to have performed up to par in the exam.

We have, in the past, agreed with a position advanced by Education Minister Rev Ronald Thwaites to abolish the GSAT.

We share his view that, since its inception in 1999, the GSAT has been stirring fear and trauma in parents and children alike. The exam, he argued in his contribution to the 2012/13 Sectoral Debate, robs children of much extra-curricular life and crams their head with excess material they will never use.

Although, over time, arguments in defence of the GSAT have given us reason to review our position, we still hold to the view that high school placements should be determined by continuous assessment rather than students’ ability to recall information in one exam.

For there are many students who do well throughout their years in primary and prep schools, but freeze on sitting the GSAT as the enormous pressure on them to perform frightens them.

We know that one of the reasons for that pressure is parents’ contemptuous dismissal of non-traditional high schools. Every mother and father wants their child to attend one of the more-respected traditional high schools. We can understand that.

The key, therefore, to ending the scramble for places in a few schools is to improve the standard of the schools that parents regard as less than desirable for their children.

That, we accept, is no simple task, especially in a struggling economy such as ours. But the effort must be made. For failing to do so will keep us on this treadmill which is really providing substandard education to many children.

Minister Thwaites has said that the GSAT will be replaced with an examination that emphasises aptitude and skills with appropriate age-related content.

The sooner he can get that done, the better. For our children should not continue to endure the unreasonable pressure placed on them by the GSAT for another year.