Letter of the Day | Are we ready for PEP?
THE EDITOR, Sir:
In 2019, the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) will be replaced by the much vaunted Primary Exit Profile (PEP). The latter is expected to transform the educational landscape by enabling students to become critical thinkers.
Unlike GSAT, the PEP will comprise school-based assessments and short-answer questions requiring students to justify their responses. On paper, it appears that this exam will prepare our students for a globally competitive economy, demanding them to be analytical thinkers.
The conceptualisers of PEP have not taken into account the socio-economic features of Jamaica or the ability of teachers to deliver the curriculum.
Students from the poorer echelons of society were never at a disadvantage because of GSAT. For example, students with limited parental support could always work hard and pass GSAT. But PEP is an entirely different ball game. Preparing for this exam requires having superior research skills and access to the internet.
Nearly 50 per cent of the population has no access to the internet in their homes. Since PEP will require internet-based research, poorer students will have to find the extra cash to attend the library and endure the added inconvenience of possibly slow computers or, in some instances, overcrowding. Pupils from the lower socio-economic strata will definitely need more assistance to master the PEP. Whereas with GSAT they could help themselves, PEP will force them to depend on adult knowledge that could be lacking at home.
Furthermore, the greatest obstacle to the implementation of the PEP is the suitability of teachers to deliver the curriculum. In 2012, the then minister of education, Ronald Thwaites, noted that only 16 per cent of the country's mathematics teachers were qualified to teach the subject.
The issue of teachers teaching subjects for which they have no qualification has been a pervasive problem. The PEP is expected to be an analytical method of assessment; therefore, teachers administering the curriculum must understand the foundations of their disciplines well. It would be illogical to switch from GSAT to PEP when the research is overwhelming that our teachers may not be up to the task. PEP may be a good idea, but our students should not be used as scapegoats to further political goals.