Careers & Education

A GSAT alternative?

CXC primary exam to be piloted in four J'can schools next year

BY LUKE DOUGLAS Career & Education senior reporter

Sunday, July 01, 2012    

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THE Caribbean Primary Exit Assessment (CPEA) — which is expected to provide the foundation for a seamless transition to secondary level education while facilitating portability of qualifications across the region — is to be piloted in four Jamaican schools in September.

News of the pilot comes as Jamaica contemplates the future of the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT), regarded by some as being too stressful for the 45,000 or so children who sit the exam in order to gain access to high school each year.

CPEA, whose administrators the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) describe as an assessment of the literacies required by all pupils exiting the primary school system, was fully rolled out in Grenada and Anguilla this academic year. It is also to be introduced to St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines as well as Dominica in the new school year.

CXC pro-registrar Glenroy Cumberbatch said the CPEA methodology, which includes a programme of continuous assessment, will be used at:

* Torrington Primary in St Elizabeth;

* Trench Town Primary and Chetolah Park Primary in Kingston; and

* Aeolus Valley All-Age in St Thomas.

At the same time, he said they will still sit the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) like all other primary-level schools.

Explaining the methodology, Cumberbatch said it is "designed to engage parents, teachers and students together to try to improve the different types of literacies", such as language, mathematics, science, social studies and interpersonal literacies.

"When we combine the parent, the teacher and the student together, we will get a much greater attainment," he told the Jamaica Observer.

Under CPEA, the continuous assessment accounts for 40 per cent of the final score, while an exam makes up the other 60 per cent.

Cumberbatch said the educators in the chosen schools have already been trained in the use of the methodology, which he explained was a kind of school-based assessment in which students would, for example, have to produce several pieces of written work, each of which would be assessed by the teacher with corrections and improvements made by the student.

"Students will have a writing portfolio will all kinds of writing, such as letters and short stories; the teachers give them feedback and have them write again," Cumberbatch said.

"So the teacher might say 'your ideas are excellent, but you need to look at your capital letters, or you need to check your spelling, or use more adverbs or adjectives', and so they are constantly developing these pieces of writing as they go along," he added.

Another feature of CPEA is that students will be required to work together in groups.

"When you put them to work in groups, you develop their inter-personal skills and intra-personal skills. They learn to manage and share tasks, and focus on co-operative and collaborative learning. There are not many major achievements in the world that are done by one person," Cumberbatch noted.

The pro-registrar said also that measures are in place to ensure that the work is actually done by the children and not their parents and/or teachers. Firstly, he said the assessment is done at school, and secondly, the teachers have a scoring rubric which clearly tells them what to score for what area of work.

Cumberbatch said further that each country has a team which examines samples of the children's work while samples are also sent to the CXC office for perusal.

Trinidad and Tobago's primary exit test also has a continuous assessment component, which accounts for 40 per cent of the mark, the CXC pro registrar noted.

However, he declined to say whether Jamaica is lagging behind other Caribbean countries in having the 'one-shot' GSAT exam instead of continuous assessment, which accounts for a percentage of the child's final grade.

"Jamaica has a consultant looking at the GSAT now and I don't know what will happen, but Jamaica is welcome to come on board with the CPEA," he said.



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