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Change teaching culture to stem falling GSAT math results - Thwaites

Published:Tuesday | June 16, 2015 | 12:00 AM

ON THE back of a four-percentage-point decline in student performance in mathematics during this year's sitting of the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT), Education Minister Ronald Thwaites says there is a need for continued implementation of strategies to change the teaching and learning of mathematics in Jamaica's schools.

The results of this year's GSAT will be available to primary and prep schools this afternoon.

In a statement to the House of Representatives yesterday, Thwaites said student performance improved in four of the five subject areas on which they were tested.

Social studies had a six-percentage-point increase above last year's average; communication task saw a three-percentage-point improvement; and language arts and science had a one-percentage-point increase in performance.

However, there was a 3.7-percentage-point decline in the average student performance in mathematics.

Based on Ministry of Education data, the average student performance in mathematics was 61 per cent in 2013 and has slipped to 56 per cent this year.

Communication task boasts the highest average percentage with 75 per cent, up from 71 per cent two years ago.

The minister said students scoring 50 per cent or less in any subject are in need of intervention in order to adequately manage grade seven studies.

In analysing the decline in student performance in mathematics, Thwaites said it is "of concern to us at the Ministry of Education", adding that "our analysis points to an area of teaching and learning that requires targeted intervention".

He suggested that the decline in performance in mathematics could be caused by an increase in the number of items that required students to reason and apply concepts.

"The challenge students faced handling these items may be attributed to one of the issues with which the ministry continues to contend as it relates to the teaching and learning of mathematics - emphasis on rote learning rather than the teaching of concepts," Thwaites said.

Meanwhile, the minister said that the vast majority of students who sat GSAT - 73 per cent of them - will be placed in a school they selected.

Of the 37,575 students who sat the examination, 33,546 were placed in high schools. Another 3,177 were placed in technical schools; 836 in primary and junior high; 15 in special schools; and none in all-age or private institutions.