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LETTER OF THE DAY - GSAT placement pain

Published:Friday | June 22, 2012 | 12:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

The Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) results are out and I wish to congratulate all the students that have been placed in secondary institutions.

For some time now, the students have been given the option to select five schools of choice prior to the sitting of the exams. Many of these children, with the support of parents and guardians, really dig deep into their resources to ensure they are fully prepared to capitalise on the opportunity of getting their school of choice.

But so many of them, even though they perform excellently, find themselves placed at schools that were not among their choices or even schools they would not have chosen.

I am aware that in other developed countries, schools are zoned, and placement in schools impinges on where you reside. However, all parties are privy to this information. But while there has been talk of zoning in Jamaica, this has not yet materialised. And, the message sent to the children is that placements are driven by performance, something a lot of them have come to see as deception. This begs the question, why allow the children to identify their preference - of five schools?

I hear talk about the minimal impact this has on the children. But, I have spoken to so many who feel they are complete failures. It demotivates them and impacts negatively on their performance in the new schools because they have been placed in a school they would never have selected, especially in cases where the child/parent perceives the choice given as inferior to all five preselected choices.

Culture shock

Another observation is the stark contrast in the culture and environment to which they are being moved. There is going to be resistance from not only the child, but also the parents, especially where that environment has the tendency to display hostility and is unfamiliar to both parent and child.

I also empathise with some school administrators who have always received students at the bottom of the grade level. While some have transformed these students, they have not marketed their success, and many children sitting the GSAT continue to see those schools as inferior.

We need to be careful - a child who works hard to achieve his or her objectives should not, by the system's choice of placement, feel as if he/she is a failure.

PAT WILLIAMS BIGNALL

wilbig@cwjamaica.com