Letter of the Day | PEP: The naked truth
THE EDITOR, Sir:
In light of the plethora of sagas surrounding the new assessment instrument, the Primary Exit Profile (PEP), which is now being used for the matriculation of primary- school students into secondary institutions, let us all be clear on one very essential point: The Core Curriculum Unit (CCU) of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information is the solitary implementers of all national curricula, and in this case, the recently executed National Standards Curriculum (NSC) as it relates to every subject area - including mathematics.
Unfortunately, the curriculum in question, which has been rolled out in schools across the length and breadth of the island – most notably in grades one to nine – in the past three years, is seven years behind its actual implementation schedule. As such, it has been pushed on educators like a rabid disease, and in the same light, they have been entrusted to make blood out of stone. As one of the contributors of this ‘FIRST-WORLD’ document, in which some serious funding went into and is still ongoing, such a curriculum would take at least five years to be fully immersed into the school system. Since it has been rushed in an attempt to test a number of new assessment instruments, especially PEP, educators and students have not been allowed the required time to adjust to its methodology – even though there are assessment tasks already accompanying each of the curricula. Bear in mind, the content and terminologies are all the same as its predecessor – the Reformed Primary Curriculum. It has been bandied about that scores of teachers have focused their attention on preparing students for each segment of the PEP assessment solely on test samples, instead of teaching from the assigned curricula.
Were these educators so overwhelmed with the burdens of the NSC and PEP that they resorted to focus on the latter? Alarmingly, the acting permanent secretary, Dr Grace McLean, was heard recently on a radio station berating the fact that teachers need to aim their attention on teaching from the NSC rather than focusing on just test items. Thus, CCU is doing one thing, and on the flip side, Madam Tamika Benjamin, as well as her ‘high-flyer’ team is doing theirs. In comparing the items in each of the PEP stages, most of them have little or no bearing on the NSC. Frighteningly, the Student Assessment Unit (SAU), the sole assessment oversight body of the education ministry, is leaning on the side of Madam Benjamin and her team, while, in the same breath, CCU is left out in the cold. The irony of it all is that the CCU, the arm of the ministry that should be the only medium of curriculum implementation and monitoring on this piece of rock, is like a fortress of knowledge in the wilderness with no backbone – apparently begging for much-needed attention. Shouldn’t the focus be on the NSC now, and then PEP later? Interestingly, the National Mathematics Programme, led by Dr Tamika Benjamin, has been testing a number of mumeracy programmes in the already fragile and overbearing education system – the latest of which is the Singapore Model, in primary schools. Has PEP been an abject failure? Jamaicans are not as stupid as the ‘few learned’ amongst us may think.