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GSAT results better than expected

BY CANDIESE LEVERIDGE Online reporter leveridgec@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, June 20, 2012 | 2:30 PM    

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EDUCATION Minister Ronald Thwaites says that there has been significant improvement in the grades of students who sat the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) this year resulting in more students with high averages being placed in non-traditional high schools. Thwaites was speaking at today's Jamaica House press briefing.

"Students are going to be spread far more widely in the range of schools than has ever been seen before, and to me that's good," said Thwaites.

According to the Education Minister schools that have endured an average of not more than 30 or 35 per cent will now spend less time on remedial studies and more on the high school curriculum.

"It's going to mean also that parents who thought an 85 average would take their child to a pedigreed school of their designation are going to find that that is not so as there are so many many more whose average is in the 90 and the 95's," he added.

The average scores are: Mathematics, Boys: 59.9%, Girls: 64%, Science; Boys: 62.3%, Girls: 65.7%, Social Studies: Boys: 59%, Girls: 64%, Language Arts: Boys: 55%, Girls: 63% and Communication Task: Boys: 72% and Girls 78%.

Thwaites said he has learned of a student scoring 85 percent and was placed at Gaynstead High School, while at the same time a female with an average in the 90 percent range will be going to Holy Childhood High School.

"Not that these schools are in the lower percentile, but in the past they probably would not have got students with such high averages," he said.

The main difficulty with the non traditional schools he said, is the low level of literacy and numeracy at which the students enter.

"When you have a school like Kemp's Hill, an excellent school, good staff and reasonable facilities but their average intake in grade 7 over recent years have been 30 percent, they're comparing that with... a school like Campion College or Hampton where the average would be closer to 95 percent," he said

"... there are students who are coming there (Kemp's Hill), who frankly need tremendous work in literacy and numeracy, unlike girls coming to Hampton where some of them are taking CSEC at third form " he added.

Thwaites said what government should do when they raise the level of students being admitted to non-traditional high schools is teach nothing until the students' needs are diagnosed. He said if remedial work is needed it should be done immediately.

Thwaites argued that this approach should be taken, "Rather than simply, as we have been doing for generations at the extraordinary expense of tax payers' money and borrowed money, putting them (students) on a treadmill of promotion when in fact they haven't achieved the basics which would allow them to benefit from going forward".

It was stated that placing children with a high average in a non-traditional high school would demotivate them because of lack of resources, however Thwaites said teachers at these schools are just as qualified as others and if the Ministry of Education and specialists, which would help with the upgrade, worked together, then all students would be afforded the opportunities required.

"We are doubling the number of literacy specialists in the Primary schools this year and we will make others available as required in the high school system," he said.

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