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LETTER OF THE DAY - Find GSAT replacement

Published:Thursday | April 26, 2012 | 12:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

In recent times, the call for the abolition of the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) has got louder. From the halls of academia to the verandas of the average Jamaican, there has been growing public opinion urging the Ministry of Education to find a replacement measuring tool to place our primary school students into high schools.

The elitist nature of the GSAT exam is reinforced by the Ministry of Education in two ways. The top performers of the exams are sent to a limited number of high-performing high schools, and candidates with the lowest scores are also sent to a number of low-performing high schools.

Therefore, from day one the selection process is flawed and plays into the socio-economic divide that is so pervasive. The negative results of this policy are indicative in the 'struggling' schools highlighted by the recent report of the Inspectorate Unit of the Ministry of Education. Most of those students at those schools share a dysfunctional, disruptive, maladaptive code of behaviour, not to mention many have learning challenges.

Education should be a catalyst to bridge the gap in society, not widen it.

With regard to the GSAT not being a true measurement of a student's ability, take the example of the subject, communication task. This exam is divided into two parts: an essay section marked out of 6, and the other, a short answer section which requires students to fill out information using a given prompt, also marked out of 6.

Determining average student

In quite a number of instances, a student can score six out of 12 in communication task, and that candidate could be seen as being an average student by virtue of scoring 50 per cent. However, that same candidate can omit to do the essay section or may have scored zero in that section.

This scenario happens more often than not and can be interpreted by a given school that the student entering their institution is an average student in that subject.

Of course, this would be far from the truth, as many of those 'average' students could be, and should be, classified as functional illiterates.

We must revisit GSAT with a clear mandate at arriving at a better and more equitable way of student placement.

WAYNE CAMPBELL

waykam@yahoo.com