Thu | Jun 8, 2023

Unreasonable GSAT placements demotivating high achievers

Published:Monday | June 23, 2014 | 12:00 AM


I, like many Jamaican parents, awaited the results of the recent Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) on Thursday, June 19. Sitting in anxiety with your child awaiting the 'verdict' is like being sentenced without a hearing.

Like many educators, we work with our child/children for 11 or 12 years. We toiled with them "upwards in the night", send them to reputable extra-lesson classes to ensure clarity and authenticity of information, and provide the necessary material to prepare them for the task ahead - kindergarten through to grade six - even when we encounter economic hurts, considering the woes of today's economy.

As a parent, I worked with my child. I ensured that she exhibits optimal performance in all areas of her life. Discipline and academics walked hand in hand. She is a diligent and conscientious child, who has certificates and trophies, coupled with reports over the past nine years of her academic experience to show. She worked well and preserved her position on the 'Principal Honour Roll' in her school for all three consecutive terms each academic year, from grades one through to six, by maintaining an above-90 average.

On the day of reckoning, Thursday, June 19, she stood proudly with her classmates awaiting the information on a well-deserved and earned placement in the high school of her prioritised choice, only to be graced with a placement in one of the new high schools in the region that was not among the list of her choices.


The joy of the moment that she has worked nine tedious years for has been snatched from her. The questions now being asked are: How can a student with a profiled score result of "98 for science, 96 for language arts, 95 for mathematics, 95 for social studies, 11/12 for communication task" be laid at the feet of the whims and fancy of those responsible for the placement of our future scientists, lawyers and doctors, according to GSAT results? How can students be placed in schools that are totally out of the reach of Jamaican families, emotionally and physically? How can we cripple our nation's scholars by demotivating them? What message are we sending to our children - work at mediocre levels so as to obtain your choice? How can this be explained to a 12-year-old who hypotheses that one works hard to achieve his/her choice?

Let me draw your attention to an excerpt from a psychological study on disappointment from Wikipedia, "Disappointment is the feeling of dissatisfaction that follows the failure of expectations or hopes to manifest. Similar to regret, it differs in that a person feeling regret focuses primarily on the personal choices that contributed to a poor outcome, while a person feeling disappointment focuses on the outcome itself. It is a source of psychological stress.

"Disappointment is a subjective response related to the anticipated rewards. The psychological results of disappointment vary greatly among individuals; while some recover quickly, others mire in frustration or blame or become depressed.

"A 2003 study of young children with parental background of childhood onset depression found that there may be a genetic predisposition to slow recovery following disappointment. While not every person responds to disappointment by becoming depressed, depression can almost always be seen as secondary to disappointment/frustration.

"Disappointment, and an inability to prepare for it, has also been hypothesised as the source of occasional immune system compromise. ..."

As an educator, I pulled all stops to get my child at the top of the academic achievement strata and I have no reservation in ensuring that she is rewarded for her achievement. Should any parent sit around and allow his/her child to lose confidence in her abilities? The cry is being made to correct the error.

Christine Hepburn-Thomas