JIS News

An Alternative Secondary Transition Education Programme (ASTEP) has been established to assist primary school students, who are performing below grade level and continue to fail the Grade Four Literacy Test.

Making the announcement in the House of Representatives on Tuesday (March 1), Education Minister, Hon. Andrew Holness, said that the intervention has become necessary in light of the number of students, who continue to fall short, even after a fourth attempt at taking the test.

“These are the students who clearly have… problems in their households, problems in their community; students with moderate to severe learning disabilities; and students with self esteem and motivation issues. Their needs will be addressed under ASTEP,” the Minister informed.

Under ASTEP, students will be placed in centres established in selected primary, all-age and primary and junior high schools and, over a two-year period, will receive the necessary intervention and intensive support to successfully transition to secondary school, without having to take the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT).

“Those students would be accommodated in a class size that is smaller than the class size in general education – no more than one to 25…so those students would immediately have a change of environment. We would now focus our literacy coaches in those centres,” Minister Holness told the House.

He noted the literacy coaches will work with the teachers to show them the special methods of dealing with students, who are slow learners or have certain learning challenges that require special pedagogical strategies.

“Counselling resources would be made available to them for those who have parental problems, those who have all kinds of other social problems that affect them,” he further informed. He said that while thecurriculum will focus on Mathematics and English, the studentswill be exposed to other areas.

The Minister said that over the two-year period, the students will be assessed at regular intervals and oncethey have attained a level of mastery based on the assessment that would justify their transitioning into a high school, they will be placed in a secondary education institution.

Mr. Holness said that with this new strategy students would be able to get the required education that will prepare them to take on the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) syllabus.

“We believe that this strategy is a fair strategy. We believe it will redound in many ways for the benefit of the education system. Certainly, high schools will not have to contemplate getting students who are below the curriculum that they are required to teach,” the Minister said.