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Education Minister, Andrew Holness, has announced that children preparing for entry into high school will not be allowed to sit the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT), unless they are numerate and literate at the requisite standard.
Speaking at the launch of the St. Andrew Junior Chamber’s Guardian Life-sponsored ‘A’ Graders GSAT television series, at the Guardian Life Centre in New Kingston on January 28, Mr. Holness said this move by the Ministry is to ensure that the youngsters are adequately prepared to make the transition from primary to high school.
He pointed out that, currently, on average some 50 per cent of the children who take the GSAT got less than the median score of 50 per cent. He also lamented what he described as the “disparity” in the examination.
“You have, probably, about seven to eight per cent (of children) getting in the high nineties and the rest hovering at the 50 per cent (margin) or below. It speaks to some fundamental problems (that are) happening in our education system, starting as early as the early childhood level, but moreso, in the primary school system, starting at grades one, two, three, and especially four,” the Minister pointed out. To this end, he said the Ministry has decided that if children are not certified literate and numerate by the time they are ready to sit the exam in grade six, they would not be allowed to take it.
“The psyche of parents is that they should place emphasis on this one point (GSAT), and (that) this is the turning point of their children’s lives. That’s wrong. If you (parents) are going to focus just on GSAT and that child isn’t literate and numerate by then, you are wasting your time,” he said. Mr. Holness urged parents to shift their focus on ensuring that their children were certified literate and numerate at the grade four level and, in that regard announced the ministry’s decision to make the grade four literacy test a national examination.
He pointed out that the test was already being administered by individual schools, but “we are going to make this test the national literacy certificate.””The problem we faced when we decided to do this was that if the child did not pass, should we hold back the child at grade 4. What we have decided to do is to promote (the child to grade 5) and (to) support him or her,” the Minister explained.
He noted that a programme of support already exists in the Ministry, which had a very good success rate. “In the last sitting of the (grade 4 literacy) exam, 69 per cent of the students achieved mastery. After several weeks of intervention, we were able to move that score to 79 per cent,” he said.
“If we were able to put in place the quality control, which would be the national literacy exam at grade 4, and then support those students who fail at grade five, at the next round they would be able to sit the exam, and then they would be certified literate,” Mr. Holness added.
Lauding the St. Andrew Junior Chamber and Guardian Life Insurance Company’s ‘A’ Graders series initiative, Mr. Holness urged other corporate groups to “step up to the plate” and play their part in advancing education.