GSAT transformation gets going
Minister of Education Andrew Holness has said that a revamping of the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) is currently ongoing, and the ministry has already identified ways in which it wants to steer the high-school entrance examination.
"The revamp is already under way. We have to time it with the availability of spaces," he told The Gleaner during a meeting at its North Street offices yesterday.
Holness, while indicating that the ministry was settling on the new direction, could not say when the changes would be concrete.
However, the minister, for the first time, spoke to some of the proposed changes teachers and prospective parents would have to look forward to.
One of those, Holness explained, was a reading component, which forced children to read five or six books for the year.
Holness, who has already expressed the view that there needed to be a fundamental change to GSAT, said one-off testing must come to an end.
"We are turning GSAT into a continuous assessment exam so they (children) won't just be tested in two days and they get everything. It will be over a period of time. GSAT will move more away from placement and lean more to the side of determining the readiness of the child for secondary education."
He continued to describe some of the other changes.
"The communication task will be changed into a literacy test. The communication task, as it is now, is a written exam. It looks for some amount of functionalities for a child to fill out a form. For the literacy exam, the focus is more on things like if a child understands the phonetic structure of language, the rules of grammar, do they know blends, can they put blends into words, can they decode the words? So you would get a literacy test that is age-appropriate."
A preliminary study done last year by the education ministry had already ruled that the 11-year-old exam was not adequately meeting the demands of the nation's changing education sector.
Some of the recommendations it had given then were that no child should be allowed to sit the exam unless certified literate. It also said any child between six and 12 years should be equipped with minimum acceptable literacy and numeracy competencies, requisite knowledge, skills and competencies to access secondary education and positive values and attitude towards self and others.