Careers & Education

GSAT changes coming

More higher-order skills to be tested

BY LUKE DOUGLAS Career & Education senior reporter douglasl@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, August 05, 2012    

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THE content of two of the five subjects in the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) is to be reduced while the exam will seek to test more higher-order skills.

This is according to Ministry of Education officials who are currently revising the exam which Jamaican students must sit in order to enter high school.

"The curriculum as it now is has a very high content in two particular subjects — social studies and science. It is being revised to reduce content in social studies and science, but at the same time more emphasis will be placed on aptitude and higher-order skills like evaluation and synthesis, which are the important areas for good education," said Senior Advisor to the Minister of Education Radley Reid at a ministry press conference at the Office of the Prime Minister last month.

Students' ability to master these higher-order skills were being asked for by the high schools, he explained.

For years critics have complained that the GSAT has too much content in some areas. Earlier this year, the education ministry confirmed that the controversial exam was being revised, a move that was welcomed by the Jamaica Teachers' Association.

Education Minister Reverend Ronald Thwaites made it clear that the GSAT, which examines what students have learnt at the end of their primary-level schooling before being able to enter high school, was not being scrapped as some critics have requested.

"The GSAT is not being scrapped, but the GSAT has to be modified to better test the critical abilities and capacities of the students that age," he said at the press conference.

Meanwhile, Reid said that the changes to the GSAT would take a few years because of the time involved in not only revising and piloting the new curriculum but also preparing teaching assessment modules for it.

"It is not something you are going to see overnight. It is going to take some time," he said.

Commenting on the GSAT, Reid, a retired principal of Campion College who is partly credited for making that institution the first choice among high schools for many parents in Jamaica, said it is "much better than the Common Entrance Exam" it replaced in 1999.

Also, the ministry's chief education officer, Clement Radcliffe, described the GSAT as "an effective measure of students' attainment at this (primary) stage".

A former principal of Glenmuir High, he said the exam was "effectively aligned with the grades four to six curriculum".

However, Reid cautioned that the GSAT revision "will not take away the pressure on parents about where their children are placed".

The other subjects tested in GSAT over two days are language arts, mathematics and communication tasks.

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