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First GSAT consultation reveals much

Published:Tuesday | April 13, 2010 | 12:00 AM

The first public consultation on the findings and recommendations of the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) Review Committee was held on Thursday, April 8 at deCarteret College in Mandeville, Manchester.

The public consultation, which is among several to be held in the Ministry of Education's six regions between now and the end of May, was attended by principals and teachers from schools in Region Five, which comprises Manchester and St Elizabeth.

Parents and guardians were also present to make their contributions, while the Ministry of Education was represented by Permanent Secretary Audrey Sewell who presented the findings, as well as curriculum and assessment specialists and education officers.

Sewell pointed out that the recommendations, based on the findings, would not bear fruit if there was not strong parental support.

She noted that currently there were no established minimum standards at all levels of the education system, and that there needed to be a set minimum standard with which to determine the performance of students.

Data management needed

She also indicated that the education system needed to be driven by data management, so as to inform decision making and provide information on performance.

The permanent secretary said that there were some policy decisions that were to be taken in order to bring about improvements in the quality of the education system.

These include zoning, students' identification system, centres of excellence in every new school, implementation of the School Improvement Act, a public-private sector initiative, ICT delivery at all levels of the system, a boarding policy, standardisation of school plants and a piloting of the Career Advancement Programme.

She explained that there were two proposals for the new GSAT: one, consisting of a continuous assessment, where students would be required to do a book report from a choice of three books which would be assigned from grade four; and two would be the same as the present test, with testing for competence being done in mathematics, language arts, science, social studies, and the grade six literacy proficiency (GSLP).

The changes effected in component two are in the areas of science, where the content of the test paper would be changed based on changes to the grades four-six science curriculum.

The content of the test paper for social studies should also be changed based on changes to the grades four-six social studies curriculum. That curriculum is going to now include civics and Jamaican history.

Other changes

The GSLP will replace the current communication task students sit at GSAT, and will serve as an index of measurement of literacy at the end of grade six.

The changes to the GSAT profile will also have implications on the grade seven-nine curriculum, as the review found that there was non-alignment in the curriculum between the upper primary and the lower secondary levels. The proposal, therefore, is to standardise the grade seven-nine curriculum across the education system, and revise the grades four-six curriculum in order to align the two.

Apart from those changes, there is also a proposal to move the GSAT sitting from March to another month.

The revisions will become effective three years after Cabinet approval, and are projected to begin in 2013.