Education Ministry Accepts Some Recommendations of GSAT Committee

The Ministry of Education and Youth has adopted a number of the recommendations made by the Committee that was set up last year to probe the integrity of the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) system.
Chief among these is the critical issue of additional spaces, Minister of Education and Youth, Maxine Henry Wilson told the House of Representatives yesterday (Feb 27).
“We are very concerned with the significant shifts in population.we have been in touch with the local authorities and we have asked them to ensure that the opinion of the Ministry of Education is solicited at the point at which developments are being designed.
We are even looking at the possibility of requiring that each development would have space reserved for social development, including the construction of schools,” Mrs. Henry Wilson said.
The Minister noted that the space audit, which provided details of needs by parish and region, has been completed. “This will allow us to properly target our efforts in the areas of greatest need, while undertaking initiatives to ensure a medium and long-term response,” she said.
However, Mrs. Henry Wilson added that it was not feasible to provide the total number of spaces in the short term, because, “our audit indicates that at the primary level, if we were to go at the current requirements, we would probably need about 91,685 school spaces, but if we were to factor in all the variables as recommended by the Task Force (on Education) – class size, prescribed space according to new international standards, and getting rid of the shift system – we would probably need 228,800 school spaces at an estimated cost of $44.8 billion”.
At the secondary level, she said that 187,190 spaces would be needed with the present system, but again, if class sizes were to be reduced, the shift system eliminated, and the prescribed spaces made available, then 250,000 spaces would be needed. “Clearly, it is not something that we are going to be able to do immediately,” she remarked.
The Ministry will be able to provide more than 16,990 new school spaces by the end of 2007. For Region Six, which is of particular concern, Mrs. Henry Wilson assured that this critical gap would be addressed, with the creation of more than 3,500 spaces by September.
With respect to the timely publication of the GSAT results, she said a detailed delivery schedule has been worked on with all involved parties, including the personnel responsible for data processing. A team led by the Permanent Secretary has been assigned to monitor the implementation. “To date, we are on schedule with all aspects of the implementation,” she stated.
The training of school personnel in the computer technology used for accessing the results will be undertaken next month. “We are committed to ensuring that our students get the best opportunities possible and to remove any anxiety around examinations such as GSAT, and we continue to do what we can, to upgrade the system,” the Minister said.
The Committee was commissioned by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller last year following delays in the publishing of the GSAT results, the major reason for which was the shortfall of some 3,800 places in Region Six.
This committee was therefore set up to determine the reason for the publication of the GSAT results at the end of June, instead of mid-June, as is customary; examine the entire education process, and the extent to which the process ensured the security of data; and to determine any concern that would arise from the leakage of information.
Some 52,721 students are expected to sit the GSAT examinations, which are scheduled for March 29 and 30.

JIS Social