GSAT Review Starts in Mandeville


The first public consultation on the findings and recommendations of the GSAT Review Committee was held Thursday (April 8) at deCarteret College in Mandeville, Manchester.
The public consultation, which is among several to be held in the Ministry of Education’s six regions between now and the end of May, was attended by principals and teachers from schools in Region Five, which comprises Manchester and St. Elizabeth.
Parents and guardians were also present to make their contributions, while the Ministry of Education was represented by the Permanent Secretary,
Mrs. Audrey Sewell, who presented the findings, as well as Curriculum and Assessment Specialists and Education Officers.
Mrs. Sewell pointed out that the recommendations based on the findings will not bear fruit, if there is no strong parental support for children.
“A problem that we have to address no matter what we do from the Ministry of Education, no matter what the principals do, no matter what the teachers do; if we do not have that parental support we will not make it,” she cautioned.
She said that one of the main findings of the review committee was the need for a system wide accountability, which is not speaking to pay for performance.
“As the findings indicate, we need to have a promotion of system wide accountability, everybody has to be accountable for the output of the education system from the Minister, Permanent Secretary, senior directors, the board chairs, the principals, teachers, parents,” she said.
She noted that currently there are no established minimum standards at all levels of the education system, and that there needs to be a set minimum standard with which to determine the performance of students.
“We have to establish minimum standards at all levels of the system, so we do not wait until the child reaches high school and then you realise that there were problems, because there are no national standards to determine performance of our students. There is no standard to determine output and no standards to determine if a teacher has obtained the minimum standard,” she noted.
She also indicated that the education system needs to be driven by data management, so as to inform decision making and provide information on performance.
The Permanent Secretary said that there are some policy decisions that are to be taken, in order to bring about improvements in the quality of the education system. These include zoning, students’ identification system, Centres of Excellence in every new school, implementation of the School Improvement Act, a Public/Private sector initiative, ICT delivery at all levels of the system, a boarding policy, standardisation of school plants and a piloting of the Career Advancement Programme.
She explained that there are two proposals for the new Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT): one, consisting of a Continuous Assessment, where students will be required to do a book report from a choice of three books which will be assigned from Grade Four; and two, would be the same as the present test, with testing for competence being done in Mathematics, Language Arts, Science, Social Studies, and the Grade Six Literacy Proficiency (GSLP).
The changes that will be effected in component two are in the areas of Science, where the content of the test paper will be changed and this will be based on changes to the Grades Four to Six Science curriculum.
The content of the test paper for Social Studies will also be changed, and this too will be based on changes to the Grades Four to Six Social Studies curriculum,which is going to include Civics and Jamaican History.
The GSLP will replace the current Communication Task that the students sit at GSAT, and will serve as an index of measurement of literacy at the end of Grade Six.
These changes to the GSAT profile will also have implications on the Grade Seven to Nine curriculum, as the review found that there is non-alignment in the curriculum between the upper primary and the lower secondary levels. The proposal, therefore, is to standardise the Grade Seven to Nine curriculum across the education system, and revise the Grades Four to Six curriculum, in order to align it to the Grades Seven to Nine curriculum.
Apart from those changes, there is also a proposal to move the GSAT sitting from March to another month.
The revisions will become effective three years after Cabinet approval, and is projected to begin in 2013. The GSAT review committee team pointed out that these revisions will enable readiness for Grade Seven and will allow students to function in high school.

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