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Fourteen-year-old excels in CAPE

Published:Sunday | August 17, 2014 | 8:00 AM

Andrew Harris, Gleaner Writer

Despite never getting the opportunity to sit the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT), 14-year-old Morgan Kennedy has exceeded her mother's expectations by making this year's Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) in mathematics look easy, copping a distinction.

"Well, I see myself as a normal child. I enjoy shopping when my mom takes me, I swim and I love surfing the Internet. Like, I feel it's natural for me to do well when it come to math," said Morgan.

"I did my extra work when I needed to and my mom used to give me CSEC (Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate) questions to do when I was younger, and she made me believe that math is not as hard as a lot of people make it out to be," she added.

Kennedy, who will be entering grade 11 when the new school year begins, was head girl and valedictorian at Liberty Academy in St Andrew.

She never got the opportunity to do the GSAT because, when she completed grade six, she was only nine and therefore too young to take the test.

against all odds

As she was performing better than many other children in her year group, her mother, Virginia Hall Yarru, felt it would have been unfair for her daughter to repeat grade six.

However, Hall Yarru was told by the Ministry of Education that Morgan would not be allowed to do the GSAT, leaving her with no choice but to get her daughter into a high school.

After impressing the Immaculate Conception High School for Girls with Kennedy's report cards up to grade six, Hall Yarru was able to secure a place for her daughter at the high school.

Yesterday, Hall Yarru expressed concern about the Jamaican school system holding back children who are capable of doing so much more and excelling beyond what is considered the norm.

ISSUE WITH AGE LIMIT

"It is sad that we, as a developing country, are dependent on a child's age to determine whether a child is able to perform at a certain standard in school. There should not be an age barrier to determine if the child is ready for high school," Hall Yarru told The Sunday Gleaner.

"As long as it can be proven that the child has the ability, not just academically, but on a mature basis, then that child should be allowed to enter the school. And we did provide all of that, we had a psychometric test done on her which indicated that at that point in time she was thinking at the level of a 14- to 15-year-old child and, with that given to the ministry, they decided that she should not be allowed to sit the exam," added Hall Yarru.

She said Kennedy was like any other hyperactive 14-year-old, but she was able to get her out of the mindset that mathematics and other subjects are difficult to do.

However, academically, Kennedy has proven herself to be a cut above the average 14-year-old, as she now has four distinctions overall - one in CAPE mathematics this year added to three at CSEC last year. Her CSEC passes are in English language, mathematics and add mathematics.

Kennedy is looking forward to the 2015 CSEC examinations in June, where she will be sitting six subjects. She is hoping to gain more distinction in information technology, Spanish, English literature, chemistry, biology and physics.

Kennedy encouraged other youngsters do their best in school.

"If you really want something then go for it, because the subjects we do in school are as difficult as we make them out to be, or if we fail in preparing for them," she said.

Yesterday, Education Minister Ronald Thwaites said there were many students like Kennedy who do particularly well for their age and exceptions should be made to accommodate them.

"You find, very often, some exceptional children who do well in mathematics, and I am very proud of her achievements," said Thwaites.

"Any system has to be geared towards the majority, but must always try to accommodate special needs; and special needs are not only those with challenges, but also those with exceptionalities and where they are identified and we can do something about it, then exceptions can and should be made," he added.

andrew.harris@gleanerjm.com