Reid says Gov't moving full speed ahead with PEP

BY KIMONE FRANCIS
Observer staff reporter
francisk@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, October 18, 2018

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DESPITE sector and stakeholder outcry for adjustments in the implementation of the new Primary Exit Profile (PEP), Minister of Education Senator Ruel Reid has indicated that his team is going “full speed ahead”.

Reid, who was responding to a Jamaica Observer question on whether or not the ministry would consider allowing students in grades five and six to sit the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT), therefore introducing PEP to the current grade four cohort, said that the curriculum had begun two years ago, rebutting arguments of unpreparedness.

“...We are going full speed ahead with the assessment. We can't be in the middle of the programme and now revert. It is not possible,” the minister said.

He mentioned that there was widescale buy-in of the school placement assessment which begins in 2019, and argued that resources have been made available to schools across the island.

But several school principals in the education ministry's region two, which covers St Mary, Portland and St Thomas, have been less than satisfied with the implementation of PEP, which is expected to provide a profile of where students are academically — their strengths and weaknesses, and their readiness for grade seven.

“As far as we are concerned, we were waiting to see the results of the grade five performance mock test that was conducted in June. Getting the results, and maybe looking at more or less the entire St Mary's results, I really don't think we are ready. All we can do is to assist the students as best as we can, to give support to the teachers, do extra classes, and that should help us to prepare ourselves, because the ministry is steadfast in going ahead with PEP for this year,” one principal, who asked not to be identified, said.

“If I had a say in the matter I would say push it back maybe two to three years to the current grade four. And I would insist now that they do their performance task and then use it again at grade five, and then in grade six we would be ready,” the principal explained.

The principal added that several schools are currently without teachers capable of guiding students ahead of the assessment. The principal also said that there were no books available for PEP.

Another principal, who also requested anonymity, told the Observer that the school did not even have access to Internet connection to assist in its preparation for the three-step assessment.

“We need more time. It is not that we are opposing the exam. We need at least three more years. Normally an exam like GSAT would take students one-and-a-half hours to complete, but PEP starts at 8:30 am and lasts until 2:00 pm. It is too lengthy. Teachers need to learn the curriculum and to learn it effectively,” the principal said.

The administrator wants students to be assessed individually by a representative from the ministry before being allowed to do PEP.

“Students need to be tested. If they cannot read they should not be allowed to do PEP. Somebody needs to test them to put them in the right area,” said the principal.

At the same time, one principal cited the woeful results for the mock exam, arguing that overall grades were between 10 and 35 per cent.

“If the ministry is comfortable with those results, then there is nothing we can do about its implementation. Parents are concerned, and so are we. The ministry has done several workshops but in my opinion that is not enough,” that principal said.

Meanwhile, one principal agreed that PEP's date of implementation was ideal. According to that principal, experience gained from the days of the Common Entrance Examination showed that people are afraid of change.

“The ministry has been helping us. Resources have been provided and my students, while not comfortable, will be ready come next year,” the principal said.

Yesterday, Reid said that he did not share the sentiments of the principals, noting that a sensitisation conference was held in the region and that was not the consensus.

“We are again saying to persons who have a particular challenge to speak with us. I have some concerns, because the curriculum is not rocket science, and it is essentially using different methodology which all teachers would have been exposed to, including principals having gone to university or teachers' college. We have issued copies of the curriculum, both hard and electronic. Sample items have been circulated,” he said, adding that the information is the same, but the method of education is different.

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