Sat | May 27, 2017

Reflections on waiting for GSAT/Common Entrance results

Published:Wednesday | June 17, 2015 | 6:00 AM
Krystal Tomlinson
Gordon Swaby
Wensworth Skeffery
Dennis Chung
Senator Kamina Johnson Smith
Sabrena McDonald Radcliffe
Patria-Kaye Aarons
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As the Ministry of Education prepares to release the 2015 Grade Six Achievement Test results today, The Gleaner jogged the memories of a few individuals to get their experiences while waiting to find out which schools they would be attending after taking the test or its predecessor, the Common Entrance Examination.

Krystal Tomlinson, former Festival

Queen and media personality:

I sat GSAT at age 10 with a very narrow concept of success.

After what I thought was a 'straight A' completion of my examinations, I tried my best to forget about the judgement that was coming. Despite my confidence in my performance, I was still very nervous. It was easier to worry than to be hopeful, and the expectant glares of teachers as we walked the schoolyard only pronounced the anxiety.

At least twice a week, a portion of the school devotion was dedicated to invoking the Holy Spirit on behalf of each sixth-grader. The most neutral force while I waited was my mother. She exuded a quiet confidence that helped to keep me calm, sometimes. She knew her "bright dawta" wouldn't fail, so it was only a matter of where I would fall on the spectrum of success.

In my mind, the goal was to grace the hallowed halls of St Andrew High School, Campion or Wolmer's. Anything less would be an indictment on my intellectual capabilities. Ten-year-olds tend to have, as I said, a very narrow view of success. As it turned out, I matriculated to Merl Grove High School for Girls, an institution to which I owe a debt of gratitude for catapulting me into new concepts of greatness. Labor omnia vincit!

Dennis Chung, CEO of PSOJ:

With the upcoming GSAT exam results, it does bring back memories of 1977 when I did what was known as Common Entrance exams at the time, which was replaced by GSAT. Even though the exam structure was different, there was still a shortage of school space and the same level of anxiety for students and patients. The difference today being that it is given a lot more attention.

My own view is that to prevent parents and students discarding some schools in favour of the preferred ones, we need to ensure that all schools are properly equipped with leadership, staff, and resources to ensure par performance levels at high standards. Our children certainly deserve to have a good chance to have a certain standard of secondary education.

Gordon Swaby, CEO,

EduFocal Limited

Preparing for, sitting and waiting for the results of my GSAT exam (yes, I actually did GSAT!) was extremely stressful for me. D-Day finally came and my greatest joy was knowing that I didn't have to worry anymore because the stress was finally behind me!

Kamina Johnson-Smith, senator and opposition spokesperson on education:

I sat the Common Entrance, not GSAT, so we only had English, math and mental ability papers to prepare for. I remember very clearly that we had practice books and the computerised marking system was pretty new, so there was a lot of emphasis on practising how to fill in the multiple-choice answers without shading outside the lines, and how important it was that we have No. 2 pencils!

I attended Mona Preparatory School and my parents didn't really believe in extra lessons. Their formula was more no TV, less playtime and make sure you read over your homework. I think we had one or two extra classes and a mock exam close to the actual exam date and the teachers were all about keeping us calm for the day.

We didn't have five choices back then, though, and I remember the emphasis of our teachers and parents was making sure you did well so you would get your first choice - I don't remember much discussion about other choices funnily enough - but I know we had two or three.

Back then, we also weren't so driven by instant information, and there was no 'online' anything, so it was all about hearing at school if your name was in the newspaper that day.

I remember the excitement and relief of passing for my first choice - Campion College - where my brother was already in first form. Most of my friends also passed for Campion, so the change of school felt less scary than it might have otherwise been.

I remember that those who didn't pass for their first choice were really sad and there were even tears. I know the pressure is far worse now, so we really have to find a less traumatic way to transition our children from primary/prep to secondary schools.

Wensworth Skeffery, government senator

In my time, it was not GSAT, but Common Entrance. Anxiety, nervousness, hope, and expectation captured my mind. In those days, you only had two choices, and if you were not successful, you would be placed in a new secondary school that had a different curriculum from the traditional high school.

Leading up to the publication of the results, I could not sleep, had many nightmares, picturing in my mind how my mother and other family members hugged and kissed me and gave me my favourite meal then, every youngster's favourite then, rice and peas with the chicken leg.

Then at another time, I had a dream that I was not successful and how I was forsaken by my family. Waiting for the results and the fear of failing, as viewed by the eyes of the community, made the pain difficult to bear. The night before the result was indeed a very painful one. I could not sleep! Cold sweat washed the body as I wondered which path my future would take.

Sabrena McDonald Radcliffe, sales and marketing manager, Restaurant Associates Limited

For the first and only time in my life, I did summer school and even Christmas holiday classes to prepare for the mighty mathematics, English and mental ability. I only had one school in my vision - St Jago High. It was, and, dare I say, still is, the best school in St Catherine. After sitting exams in January, I went back to my relaxed tomboy days of climbing trees and riding bicycles.

But as soon as June came around the corner, my heart was in mouth as the countdown to results day when the names of successful candidates would be printed in the newspaper. "Did I study enough?" "Will I get my school of choice". On results day, I nervously searched the paper under St Jago and there was my name. I was ecstatic!

Patria-Kaye Aarons, media personality and CEO at Sweetie Confectionery

I've never been a Plan B kind of girl. I always have been very clear on what I wanted; even at the age of 10 ... and Common Entrance was no exception. I was going to be a Campionite. Not only had I admired the school for many,, many years because of its academic successes, but my Mummy had been teaching there since 1988, and in some celestial way, I thought my going there was fate.

I was pretty confident as results day approached. My mother, on the other hand, was a nervous wreck (as she is for most other things). At the time, I was as student of Mona Heights Primary, and on announcement morning, we all crowded around the newspaper looking for our names under our school of choice. Mummy's misery was short-lived, because having a last name beginning with 'Aa', my name appeared first under the girls' list, proudly resting beneath Campion College.

It was a good feeling. And all summer, all I could dream of was September morning when I would get dressed in my purple and white. It was all well worth the work.