BY LUKE DOUGLAS Career & Education senior reporter firstname.lastname@example.org
PRIMARY school principals in East Rural St Andrew welcomed the administration of Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) mock exams in their institutions on December 6 and 7.
They said students have been provided with valuable preparation for the crucial exams which determine entry into high school for Jamaican students.
The GSAT mock exam is the brainchild of first-term Member of Parliament Damion Crawford, who has introduced a number of innovative education programmes to improve the poor academic performance in his constituency.
A news release from the MP more than a week ago said he would provide the exam preparation papers himself, as well as the persons to conduct the independent marking of the papers.
"The aim of the mock exams is to get the children accustomed to exam procedures, therefore, all activities mimic the actual exam execution, including shaded papers, external invigilators and the structure of the exams," said Crawford, who is the Minister of State in the Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment.
The mock exams form part of his 3-2-1 education programme, which is funded in part from his Constituency Development Fund.
Other aspects of the education programme include mathematics camps for 11 and 10 graders across the constituency, and the establishment of homework centres as well as night schools for adults.
Commenting on the GSAT mock exams, Crawford said approximately 720 students from 19 schools throughout East Rural St Andrew sat the exam. He noted that the schools in the constituency were performing below the national average in GSAT, placing second to last throughout Kingston and St Andrew, which underscores the value of the mock exams.
"Many of our students have not been getting into the traditional high schools and we have been trying to [remedy] that with this programme that seeks to reduce their fears about the GSAT," he told Career & Education.
Crawford said after the mock exams, each paper will be analysed and the children given a report of what they need to focus on, while a copy will also be issued to the schools.
Principals in the constituency gave Crawford the thumbs-up for the programme.
"I think the students will be more relaxed going into the GSAT because this test gives them the experience before sitting the actual examination," said Fay Buchanan, principal of St Martin de Porres Primary in Gordon Town.
The controversial GSAT takes place on March 21 and 22 next year.
Some 58 students sat the mock exam at St Martin de Porres, which is one of three primary schools in the Gordon Town area, the other two being Grove Primary and Louise Bennett-Coverley All-Age.
At St Benedict's Primary in Seven Miles, Bull Bay, Principal Jacqueline Dixon said her teachers wrapped up their end-of-term exams two Wednesdays ago to facilitate the mock exam.
She noted that the mock exam followed the format of the GSAT, with the students sitting mathematics and social studies on the first day, and language arts, science and communication task on the second day.
Dixon said the mock exam would help the teachers to identify areas of weakness in the preparation of the 157 students who will sit the GSAT next year.
"One of my teachers commented that after the students finished the mathematics yesterday it made him more aware of the topics the students needed to focus on, so that by the end of February, the children will be more prepared going into the GSAT," she said.
Principal of the Harbour View Primary Lawrence Wright said it was too early to state what effect the mock exam would have on students' performance.
"We use it as a litmus test to see where the children are and the kind of intervention needed to improve our scores," said Wright of the mock exam, which was done by 180 students at the school.