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Schools gain from GSAT booklet plan

Published:Thursday | March 4, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Philip Hamilton, Gleaner Writer

Several primary schools in west rural St Andrew, Kingston and Portmore are benefiting from a recently launched education initiative involving the distribution of more than 4,000 Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) past-paper booklets free of charge.

Valued at just over $1 million, the initiative targets primary-school students who cannot afford to purchase GSAT past papers, have no Internet access or who cannot afford Internet subscriptions.

The booklets cover more than 1,500 GSAT past-paper questions in mathematics, language arts, social studies and science for the past five years, and will be made available for use by students sitting the GSAT examinations March 25-26.

Desire to assist

The initiative is the brainchild of Dr Gerald Smith, whose company, the Medico-Legal group in Lawrence Tavern, St Andrew, is responsible for the project.

Smith, a former student of Lawrence Tavern Primary School, where the initiative was launched, told
The Gleaner
the idea came from a desire to assist schools in the community in which he grew up.

"In the schools that were in my area, there were middle- to low-income children who could not afford all the books available to give them the practice they would need for their GSAT examination," said Smith.

On realising that several students faced a significant disadvantage in not having the kind of practice questions better-off children had, Smith said he wanted to help.

"Initially, we did a count in our area in west rural St Andrew and came up with 1,000 students," said Smith.

"We felt that if we could solicit questions, print booklets and give it to them free of cost, it would go a far way in helping their preparations for the exam."

Success so far

Smith said his company was able to secure a deal which allowed it to print additional booklets for distribution to other schools outside west rural St Andrew.

According to Smith, the initiative has been successful, as more than 60 schools in the Corporate Area and St Catherine are now using the GSAT practice booklets.

Corporate Area institutions include Clan Carthy, Mona, Windward Road, and Tarrant primary schools, while Naggo Head, Portsmouth, Waterford, and Bridgeport are among those primary schools in St Catherine where the practice booklets have been distributed.

Janet Smith, principal of Lawrence Tavern Primary, has hailed the initiative as a positive move for students who would have otherwise been deprived.

"If more past students were doing this, the children and the community would benefit in that he was not selfish to hold what he has gained from the school, but instead he's now sharing what he gained with the community," said Smith.

Janet Whyte, principal of Unity Primary, whose grade six students were completing exercises from the practice papers, agrees.

"It's very helpful to the students, and the teachers are saying it has come a long way. These booklets will serve over a number of years."