Tue | Apr 7, 2020

PEP in step for subpar students - Ministry seeks to reserve spaces at traditional high schools for poor performers

Published:Monday | February 3, 2020 | 12:20 AMNadine Wilson-Harris/Staff Reporter

The Ministry of Education is seeking to have a classroom or two reserved at traditional high schools to accommodate students who perform poorly in the upcoming Primary Exit Profile (PEP) examinations, which are to be held over a five-day period starting next month.

Acting Chief Education Officer Dr Kasan Troupe announced during a regional consultation meeting with principals and board chairs last Wednesday that the ministry had already made the request of some principals. No objections have emerged from consultations so far, she said.

“We have 35 traditional high schools and we have started the conversation with them as it relates to reserving those spaces for the Pathway Two and Three children, separate and apart from those students that they would have got in the normal placement programme,” she said.

Troupe said that at least four school administrators in the Corporate Area and St Catherine had already indicated a willingness to accept these students.

“Not only should the brightest of the brightest be reserved for the 35 traditional high schools. If the best resources are there, then the students who need it should have access to it, and our high-school principals have said to us, ... we will take a class set or two of our Pathway Three children in our school to work magic,” she explained.

The inaugural PEP was held last year and replaced the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) as the national secondary-school entrance amination. Based on the results of the exam, students were placed along three pathways. Pathway One is for students who are performing satisfactorily, the second for those who have some form of delayed learning, and the third is for students with special needs.

EASING DISPARITY

More than 42,000 students sat PEP last year. The results in various subjects showed that fewer than 10 per cent of all students were at the Beginning Level. This meant that they demonstrated limited or no evidence of the required competencies and skills for readiness in grade seven in all subject areas.

Interim minister Karl Samuda, a stand-in for the de jure overseer, Prime Minister Andrew Holness, believes that the move to place low-performing students in traditional high schools is one of the means of addressing the disparity within the education system. There are about 171 secondary schools islandwide

“My little way of trying to address it is by simply exposing those who are from the depressed areas of Jamaica, who, when you look at their results, they are bunched together, in an institution that has not had a history of performance, because there is no space in the inn for them,” he told the principals and board chairs during the meeting.

“I hope and pray that those results will be better than the previous because what I am intending to promote is the reservation of a certain number of seats in the traditional high schools that are devoted to kids that are coming from the more challenged areas so that we can begin the process of integration,” he said.

He said that he was aware that some parents might not be pleased with this move.

“You see that thing that they called Common Entrance? That was the beginning of inequity, where children sat an examination coming from different backgrounds, where on one hand you had a child who is dwelling in a household that provides all the modern furnishings, all the nutrition, and air condition, all the tutoring by private tutors, prepared like you prepare a racehorse for a race and that child sits in an equal position beside a child with] deficiencies in nutrition, social environment, family care, parenting, dislocation,” he said.

The Common Entrance Examination preceded GSAT as the national secondary-school entrance exam.

nadine.wilson@gleanerjm.com