Fri | Dec 2, 2016

Slaves to examinations

Published:Tuesday | April 27, 2010 | 12:00 AM

The Editor, Sir:

One of the greatest misconceptions I had when I entered graduate school in the United States (US) in 2000 was that school would be easy. After all, we were always told that Jamaican students were among the best and the brightest.

I quickly found out, however, that while I could pass any exam, there was a critical element that was lacking: I really was not as creative as my US counterparts. This was particularly a problem because of the case-study approach used in my programme. As I needed to preserve my scholarship, I had to overcome these challenges quickly. The solution came from my graduate adviser - it was simply "free your mind".

Now that I am a mother of two, the genesis of my own shortcomings has become very clear. We are indeed slaves to GSAT, CXCs and A' levels. While the vast world of knowledge simply cannot fit into any curriculum, our focus on exam-taking and passing cripples even the learning that should take place outside the classroom; we get so caught up in passing these exams that there simply is no place or enough time for anything else.

Culture of studying

But the problem does not stop there. The culture of studying to pass exams is only exacerbated at the tertiary level. We are so focused on reproduction and regurgitation that while we can read books and memorise formulas, it's not as easy for us to come up with novel ideas for starting a business, or strategic ways to look at and solve real-world problems. The exceptions are few. We have locked our minds in a box which must be freed to achieve excellence.

I applaud the efforts being undertaken to review and improve our GSAT system. But, for our children's sake, let us not stop there. Let us adopt a more holistic view to revamping our entire education system whereby the primary, secondary and tertiary are seen as inter-related parts that work together to achieve the same objectives. The world is simply changing too fast for us to maintain the status quo in education.

I am, etc.,

ANDRENA RAMSAMUGH MCMAYO

aramsamugh@gmail.com