THE EDITOR, Sir:
ON THURSDAY February 21, 2013, A news article written by Jodi Ann Gilpin in The Gleaner quoted Minister of Education Ronald Thwaites as saying, "There are some changes, particularly the social studies and science questions. They involve more critical thinking and problem solving than simply regurgitating what you have memorised; we really want our student to move away from that."
I am extremely disappointed that Mr Thwaites could announce one month before our children take an exam such a fundamental change in the testing methodology. Mr Thwaites surely must understand that it would be rather unfair to expect children to be answering more critical thinking questions without being prepared to do so. The integrity of any exam lies in the fact that the test items are based on what was taught in the curriculum. If students are not taught to think critically, how can we test them in that arena? We are setting them up to fail.
I am particularly concerned as I have a child who will be sitting the GSAT examination, and it is no fault of his that this exam has many weaknesses. Over the years, students have been prepared by their teachers based on what the ministry has set as the formal curriculum. I am most peeved that the minister would not have sent out such correspondence before now - preferably at the beginning of the shool year. My child who is already traumatised has heard this little news items from his peers and is terrified out of his wits. Mr Thwaites, these are children, and throwing them these kinds of curved balls can damage their self-esteem.
Find a different solution
The exam is already pressuring, and to add insult to injury, you will be penalising these children for the inadequacies in your ministry and in your schools. I pray that my child will not feel less because you believe testing on critical thinking and problem solving can solve the fact that they are not being taught these skills. Mr Minister, it would be more prudent if you would tackle the problem first among your teachers and not use my child as a guinea pig in what is obviously a 'hurry come up tactic'.