JIS News

Minister of Education, Hon. Andrew Holness, has reiterated the Government’s decision, that no child will be allowed to sit the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT), without achieving mastery on the Grade Four Literacy Test.
Mr. Holness, who outlined the new competence-based transition policy in the House of Representatives on September 15, said that if necessary, children would be allowed to do four sittings of the Grade Four Test, to be certified, which means they would spend an additional year at the primary level.
The Minister was speaking against the background of the results of the 2009 Grade Four Literacy Test. The test was administered nationally for the first time this year, to 46,663 children from public and private schools.
Mastery is achieved when a child has fully commanded the three sub-tests of skills – word recognition, reading comprehension, and writing – and is considered literate.
“Literacy is now the critical benchmark for transitioning from primary to the secondary level. For this year, schools with a high percentage of their children not attaining mastery, will be supported by literacy specialists. We hope to have 90 literacy specialists in the system by year end. We now have 67. They will provide guidance and support for literacy development, including the training of teachers in literacy strategies,” Mr. Holness outlined, noting that the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), has agreed to support the development of literacy in Jamaica through a new project which will assist 200 low performing schools.
The Minister emphasised that for the Government to achieve its target of 100 per cent literacy by 2015, the national level of performance must be increased by at least seven per cent annually. He noted that during the 2008/2009 academic year, special support was provided to 187 schools through literacy specialists, and that 71 schools benefitted from the Expanding Educational Horizons Project, which focussed on improving literacy and numeracy.
Mr. Holness informed that a model is being developed to obtain the best possible results from each school. The accountability model, which is now being rolled out, revolves on a three-year cycle, which involves giving schools the necessary support for improvement in year one; a warning in the second year for underperformance; and in the third year, schools that are not performing will have to account for this.
“It may mean separation or it may mean that the persons who are responsible for the delivery of literacy will have to engage in further development, but it is more likely that teachers and principals who do not perform, will be held accountable,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mr. Holness has undertaken to submit full details of a literacy infrastructure plan to Parliament by the beginning of December.

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