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Minister of Education and Youth, Maxine Henry-Wilson has attributed low scores in one area of the Grade Four Achievement Test to a possible flaw in the Grade Four curriculum.
Stating that no child has in fact failed the test, Mrs. Henry-Wilson emphasized that the test, “is not an exam. It’s not about a pass or fail.”
The Minister was addressing parents attending the National Parent Teachers Association of Jamaica (NPTAJ) Conference at the University of Technology Auditorium in Kingston on Friday (July 6).
Her remarks came in response to recent media reports propagating a high failure rate on the Grade Four Achievement Test among students in the public school system. Mrs. Henry-Wilson chided the media and critics on their interpretation of the results, and informed that she has asked the Ministry to educate the media about the Grade Four intervention.
She indicated that most of the difficulties students had with the test was concentrated in one part of the test that assesses cognitive skills, and questioned the interventions used to prepare students for this section.
“Why I want us to emphasize that the children have not failed is that, the test has different parts, and one of the things one of the officers pointed out to me was that many of the children passed two of the critical parts. The third part is the one about which there is concern, and it may be that we are not sufficiently focused on it. So it’s not a question of the children having failed it. It’s a question of whether in fact our interventions have been geared towards that part of the academic programme or the cognitive skills of the children,” she explained.
The Education Minister also sought to clarify how the resultant decrease in the national average should be interpreted, indicating that a distinction should be made between the performances of boys and girls in any related discussion.
While expressing concern about the performance of boys on the test, Mrs. Henry-Wilson informed that it was the boy’s scores that had lowered the national average.
“The girls got a very high average and the boys brought down the national average,” she told the audience, assuring that the Ministry is “at the suggestion stage” in finding ways to deal with this situation.
In the meantime, the Minister urged the media and other critics not to overlook those schools that have received 99 per cent on the test, and schools that have done well despite their poor work environment. “We should applaud parents and teachers whose schools have done well on the test,” she urged.
Mrs. Henry-Wilson highlighted the transformation process that is taking place in the public school system. “When you go into the school and see some of the children, their demeanour, how well behaved they are, how they carry themselves, their presentations, the valedictorians, then you must know that something good is happening in that school,” she pointed out.
“We need to big (them) up when good things happen,” she reiterated, adding, “We have made a quantum leap in terms of transformation. It is not a thing that is going to happen overnight. there (are) going to be increments,” the Minister said.