VIDEO: Too much focus on testing, says AISKTuesday, February 14, 2012
BY LUKE DOUGLAS Observer senior reporter firstname.lastname@example.org
EXECUTIVES of the American International School of Kingston (AISK) believe that public schools are administering too many tests on the nation's children, and should instead focus on good teaching and the encouragement of independent thought to improve learning.
Nicola Melhado, special projects manager at AISK, said testing of students is overdone in Jamaica and that learning can be achieved without so much emphasis on tests.
"I think there is a lot of over-testing. I think because of the constraints on our system it serves a purpose, but we can have it serve its purpose without being what it is. I think it's gone way out of proportion at this point," Melhado told reporters and editors at yesterday's Observer Monday Exchange.
Melhado noted, however, that AISK has computer-based, American-based standardised testing from grades three to nine, and the Preliminary SAT and SAT at grades 10 through 12.
AISK students prepare for the International Baccalureate (IB) programme, said to be the most widely accepted college entrance examination in the world.
However, students do not do the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) nor the school leaving exams administered by the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC).
Scott Genzer, middle school and high school principal at AISK, described the practice of testing students in order to filter some into the so-called better schools as dangerous, whether it is done in Jamaica or elsewhere.
"I am not an expert on the Jamaican education system," Genzer admitted before adding, "one of the things I see here is testing kids for the purposes of filtration. You are testing kids and filtering kids. That is a very dangerous road to go."
Genzer noted that this system is not unique to Jamaica as it happens in parts of the United States as well.
He said that testing is done at AISK to improve learning, and involves having the results delivered to the students quickly, sometimes within hours.
Head of AISK Dr Brian Horvarth also pointed out that the old way of testing with pencil and paper was obsolete, and the new methods were more of an assessment which not only ask students what they know, but "how to do something and to be something".
The level and amount of testing of Jamaican students has been questioned for years, with some experts saying the GSAT is too difficult. Also, the intense competition to gain a place in the top secondary schools through the GSAT creates great stress on the young candidates each year.
Following an islandwide consultation of stakeholders by the Ministry of Education in 2010, then Education Minister Andrew Holness announced that there would be no change to the GSAT at least until 2013.
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