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GSAT will be history by 2017

Published:Thursday | May 8, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter

The Grade-Six Achievement Test (GSAT) will be history by 2017. Education Minister Ronald Thwaites yesterday announced that a new exit exam will be in primary schools by that time.

He said the new exam will be one "which relies less on recall and more on continuous assessment that emphasised the student's developing reasoning and critical thinking skills."

Jamaica introduced the GSAT in 1999, which replaced the Common Entrance Examinations.

But amid criticisms that it places an unfair and unreasonable burden on grade-six children to remember material that has been taught from as far back as grade four, the Ministry of Education committed to a review and promised that the GSAT would be replaced.

Dr Mark Nicely, president of the Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA), yesterday told The Gleaner the GSAT caused students to overextend themselves.

"We are willing to lend ourselves to the process to ensure we get an exam that is more suitable for the students at that age cohort," he told The Gleaner yesterday.

Thwaites, in making his contribution to the Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives, said "the new curriculum will set a premium on higher-order skills such as reasoning, analysis and mastery of a range of literacy skills". He noted that English, mathematics and values will be central to the new content.

Dr Nicely told The Gleaner that the proposed change from GSAT augers well for national development as the new direction, as enunciated by the minister, will "enable children to be better suited to access secondary and even tertiary-level education". "It has to move from simply recall to higher- level skills."

More quality spaces

"What I think is absolutely necessary now is that the minister must simultaneously ensure that by that time, we have more quality spaces at the secondary level. What is going to happen is that you are going to have many more students meeting the mark and so we have to work on ensuring we have quality spaces at the secondary level," Dr Nicely said.

But with 2017 a few years away, Thwaites said changes were being made to the GSAT science curriculum. He said starting this year, students will no longer need to have detailed knowledge that is not age appropriate.

According to the minister, as of this year, the science curriculum is being changed to require students to grasp general concepts and basic scientific principles.

"It is expected that this will result in more targeted instructions to students," the minister said.

The minister also announced that the social studies curriculum will also be reformed and will see the content being reduced by a quarter. The test will consist of 60 items, down from 80.