APPROXIMATELY 71.4 per cent of first-time candidates achieved mastery in the Grade Four Literacy Test earlier this year, an improvement over 66.9 per cent in 2010 and 70 per cent in 2009.
But the test revealed that more than 13,000 of the over 46,000 children at that age cohort are still unable to manage the critical skills of word recognition, reading comprehension and writing.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness said based on the results his education policies are trending in the right direction, but warned non-performing schools that they would not be allowed to continue to turn out children without basic literacy competence.
"We are not necessarily satisfied, but still an improvement is an improvement," Holness, who is also minister of education, said at a press conference at the ministry yesterday. "The public schools are doing significantly better. We are edging closer to universal literacy."
Holness stuck to his ambitious target of achieving universal literacy — defined as 95 per cent or more of grade four students achieving mastery of the Grade Four Literacy Test — by 2015.
This he said had already been achieved in the country's independent (preparatory) schools, which account for about 10 per cent of primary-level population. Ninety-three per cent of pupils in 236 prep schools achieved mastery in the test, the same as in 2009 and up from 88 per cent last year.
This compares with 69 per cent achieving mastery in the 790 public (primary) schools, an improvement over last year's 65 per cent.
Performance of both male and female first time candidates improved over last year, with the girls as usual out-performing the boys. Some 81.6 per cent of females achieved mastery as against 77.5 per cent in 2010, while 61.5 per cent of boys archived mastery, up from 56.4 per cent last year.