Tue | Sep 19, 2017

Make better arrangements for sick GSAT students

Published:Tuesday | July 26, 2016 | 7:07 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

I read with interest two recent publications in The Gleaner. They concern Ricque Fullerton, a 12-year-old student who became ill with diarrhoea on the first day of his Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT). As a consequence of his illness, he was unable to complete his examinations, and he had to be sent home to recover.

According to his mother, Racquel Fullerton, the principal of the school suggested that Ricque sit out the second day of the examinations as he was "too sick to continue". Since Ricque did not make a full recovery on the second day, she heeded the principal's advice and kept him at home.

Moreover, Ricque's principal stated that "Ricque is young; he can do it (the GSAT) over next year." Therefore, Racquel, despite her despair, decided to agree to the new proposal.

However, upon returning to the school days after the examinations, she received no confirmation of the approval to have her son repeat. It was thereafter that she reportedly wrote to the Ministry of Education and appealed for her son to repeat grade six and redo GSAT in 2017.

While I commend the ministry for considering Fullerton's plight, I do not believe the decision to have the child repeat and resit the GSAT is wise.

Fullerton clearly stated that Ricque had diarrhoea, which, from a medical perspective, can be caused by an anxiety attack. Presumably, given the tremendous premium placed on GSAT, little Ricque might have got apprehensive and become ill.

Perhaps we could place students, like Ricque, into schools by evaluating their academic record throughout their primary education. I am sure the grades, though not based on nationally standardised examinations, would span six years of study and would support a reasonable determination of secondary placement.

If we have tremendous concerns about possible discrepancy arising from the foregoing proposal, we could design comparatively similar GSAT examinations and have the students take these at a later date in the same academic year. Standardised entrance examinations may also be administered at our secondary schools. Whatever alternatives may be proposed, let it not be that students feel doomed because nature becomes unkind.

Hopefully, some amount of therapy can also be provided for students who suffer from testophobia - the fear of taking tests.

SHAWNA KAY WILLIAMS-PINNOCK

shawna201@gmail.com

Old Harbour, St Catherine