JIS News

Minister of Education, Andrew Holness, has reiterated that all students leaving the primary school system must be certified literate by the Grade 4 Literacy Test, before they can sit the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT), or proceed to high school.
“The Ministry of Education is going to set a policy now that all students leaving the primary school system must be certified literate. It is a major policy shift and what that means, is that we are going to be using the Grade Four Literacy test as the benchmark for literacy,” the Minister explained.
He was addressing the South St. Andrew Academic Awards Ceremony, which was held under the theme: ‘Celebrating Excellence’, at the Knutsford Court Hotel in Kingston, recently.
According to the Minister, students who fail to receive mastery on the Grade 4 Literacy Test would be promoted to grades above, but that interventions would have to be implemented to assist them.
“The Grade 4 Literacy Test is a standardised test and so if a child receives mastery on that test, you could say that that child is literate to international standards. What we have said is that if the child does not achieve mastery at that level, we will still promote the child but that there should be some specialised interventions.that look at the weaknesses of the child and tailor the response to those needs,” Mr. Holness said.
In addition, he pointed out that the policy would place greater emphasis on the primary school system.
“It places greater focus on the primary school system and it shifts the focus from the GSAT examinations, where parents don’t get involved until the year of GSAT when it is too late, when the child has not developed that reading competency to truly manage the GSAT curriculum, in order to move on to the secondary curriculum, and so we end up sending children from the primary schools into the secondary schools illiterate,” the Minister argued.
“It adds a great level of frustration to the teaching process and the children themselves become frustrated, misguided or misdirected into other areas, so we have taken this fundamental decision and at every opportunity I get for the next six months I will be promoting this policy,” he added.
In the meantime, he is encouraging parents not to leave children to their own devices, hoping they would learn to read.
“Reading is not a naturally occurring phenomenon, so parents should never have the assumption that if you leave your child by his or her own devices, they will develop their reading skills. Reading is something that has to be taught and the process of teaching that, is a very complicated process, but we know what to do, we know what the programmes are, we know what the strategies are and the Ministry of Education along with partners.can help all our students in developing that critical reading skill,” the Minister said.
In 2000, the Programmed Reading Intervention for Mainstream At Risk Youths Success in Reading Programme was implemented in five schools in South St. Andrew and one in West Kingston, where many students from South St. Andrew attend school. The aim of the programme is to improve literacy levels among students.