GSAT not preparing students for a technologically driven world, says IDB

Observer staff reporter

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

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THE Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has made a formal recommendation to Government to abandon the much-criticised Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT), which it said is failing to adequately prepare students to function in a technologically driven world.IDB Country Representative Therese Turner-Jones, speaking at this week's Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange where the British Council's Boys in Education Week was launched, said what is being taught about the work world in Jamaica is not where it is headed.

She said Jamaica and the Caribbean are behind in an era where artificial intelligence, and manufacturing, which does not involve human beings and agriculture that can be done in buildings, are taking place.

“There's a huge gap in our knowledge, so it has to start really early. Get rid of GSAT. Teach science, language skills and math,” she urged, while recommending that Government adopt the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).

PISA is an IDB programme which evaluates, every three years, what 15-year-old students know and can do in science, reading, and mathematics.

“Introduce that exam and test our kids at age 15, not at 11 when most kids are barely out of [diapers]. Test them at that point so that they can basically do an international comparison across the rest of the world. It's not okay to say we are better than Trinidad and Tobago. So what? We want to be better than Finland which gets the best results in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). So that's where we want to be and that's where we have to take the mindset in education,” Turner-Jones said.

Government, she said, has agreed to adopt the programme which should be implemented by 2021, despite a previous announcement to roll out the Primary Exit Profile test, which it said is slated to replace GSAT in the academic year 2018/2019.

Turner-Jones added, too, that teaching methods and how teachers are trained will also have to evolve, noting that students are being taught in a “very archaic way”.

“…We shouldn't be teaching kids multiple timetables. We have calculators to do that; we have algorithms to solve problems. There are other things we ought to be doing to make sure that the brains of our kids are developed to the maximum potential.”

Director of the National College for Educational Leadership Rosemary Campbell-Stephens agreed, saying that GSAT has outlived its usefulness.

She argued that an education system that is driven by how it is measured limits what it should do.

“…Education is much broader than that. Some of the best things that have happened in education couldn't be measured. It (GSAT) was set up for a reason. Let us get up off the plantocracy, start thinking for ourselves, and say what do we need going forward as Caribbean people in terms of our education system,” Campbell-Stephens said.

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