KINGSTON – Minister of Education, Hon. Andrew Holness says there were no wide-scale challenges experienced at yesterday's March 24 sitting of the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT).
"As far as is possible, all students who could or should have sat the exam were allowed to," he told journalists at a press briefing late yesterday, at the Ministry's Heroes Circle offices.
Mr. Holness noted that in allowing students who had not been certified literate and had no timetables, to sit the exam, the Ministry had ensured that no child was denied or deprived of their opportunity.
Students were allowed to sit the exams, on the condition that schools and parents submit the students' continuous assessment records, as well as their birth certificates by Monday, March 28, to enable the Ministry to conduct verification. This must be done before the papers for those students can be marked.
Literacy certification is a requirement of the new Competence-based Transition policy, which came into effect in 2009. The policy places emphasis on the Grade Four Literacy Test, rather than the GSAT, with the targeted support and interventions put in place, including engaging the services of literacy specialists, training teachers in literacy strategies, and screening children entering grade one to ensure early detection and treatment of those with special needs.
During the two-year period until Grade Six, each child has four opportunities to pass the literacy test, and they must be certified as having achieved mastery before they are allowed to sit GSAT.
Meanwhile, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Audrey Sewell said that "everybody recognises that we are serious about this new policy. I believe that some persons did not pay due attention to the new requirements…and this is one of the reasons why we decided not to have any children being disallowed from doing the exam, because it is not of their own doing."
Minister Holness pointed out that since 2008, the Ministry had been signaling its intention to implement the Competency-based Policy. "The problem, however, is that we always have a certain percentage of parents who (are) busy and who don't understand…we have gone to great lengths to explain this to the schools, and I believe the schools have a good understanding," he said.
The Minister said timetables were disseminated three weeks ago, and the strategy in ending out the timetables so early was "to give schools the opportunity to check against their register, students who received (timetables) and students who didn't receive."
"We were able to resolve many of the issues, because schools would have checked and reported back to the Ministry," he said.
By ALPHEA SAUNDERS, JIS Reporter