Mon | May 17, 2021

‘Massive intervention’ needed for education reset

Some students will have to repeat, says Williams; PEP scaled down

Published:Friday | March 12, 2021 | 12:07 AMChristopher Serju/Senior Gleaner Writer
Fayval Williams.
Fayval Williams.

With many students still remaining unengaged a year after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the suspension of physical classes in the sector – with some reopening briefly – Education Minister Fayval Williams has said that some students will have to repeat grades due to learning loss.

At the same time, the ministry has scaled back Primary Exit Profile tests to be administered to grade six students this year, scrapping the performance task and the curriculum-based tests. The students, who did not get the opportunity to sit the grade five components of PEP last year due to the pandemic, will only sit the ability test this year. That score, along with their scores from grade four, will determine their high-school placements.

The ability test for grade six students will now be administered on May 26 instead of March 25.

At a post-Cabinet briefing Wednesday, Williams acknowledged that a number of primary school students are slipping through the cracks in the current set-up.

“We know that the changes we have made are not perfect, but we believe them to be a practical approach to ensure transition to high school in an equitable manner. We know that many of our students were barely or not at all engaged in any of the modalities,” Williams said.

“There are some of our students who have not opened their books since this current year began. We know this because I was told of textbooks that are uncollected at schools, and principals and teachers have been unable to reach parents or students. We realise that we are going to be needing a massive intervention for those students. Some of our students are going to repeat grades so that they can get back to where they were before the pandemic,” she added.

The education minister said that make-up arrangements for the sections of the grade six curriculum that were not covered during this academic year will be done via diagnostic tests to be administered by classroom teachers, the results of which will be sent to the high schools in which the students are placed.

She said the diagnostic tests will gather data on the students’ grasp of the national curriculum and point out areas not covered at the primary level which may now be covered in grade seven in secondary school.

“This would require, however, that the number of school days be increased,” she warned. “The technical staff is preparing a retention document to lay out what criteria we use to determine which students are retained in their current class. Once that is prepared, we will consult with our stakeholders and, of course, that will be communicated to all Jamaicans.”