Performance at Exams: Are the Ministry of Education's Policies Working?

Administrator on August 30, 2014, 9:13 am 553 3
Performance at Exams: Are the Ministry of Education's Policies Working?

As Jamaicans prepare for back to school, anxieties concerning “good school” present themselves. Come September morning youngsters who have passed the GSAT will be experiencing their new schools for the first time. For some, this was the school of their first choice, for others the school they will be attending is one they would rather avoid. It may seem unfair to those “not so good” schools that they must produce star performers despite the fact that through the GSAT process they continue to get students whose performance in that examination was below par, and whose teachers are forced to work with limited and sometimes non functioning resources. The Ministry of Education's recent announcements concerning the review and replacement of the GSAT with another mechanism for student assessment comes as some relief as this exam, which has become nothing more than a placement test for who can get into the top schools, has created its own set of problems.

In 2011 there was major controversy when the then Minister of Education, Andrew Holness, named four schools as “failing schools” on account of their student's poor performance at exit examinations. Now the Minister of Education, Ronald Thwaites, has reported some improvements in student achievements in 14 subjects of the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) and the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations (CAPE) in 2014. These results are good news for many schools, some of which have had to bear the stigma associated with non-performing institutions. The results show that it is possible for the traditionally non-performing and under performing schools to step it up to achieve some impressive exam results of their own.

What would have accounted for this improved performance? The results for Mathematics in 2014 where there was an increase from 42 percent to 56 percent in the number of students who achieved grades 1 - 3 in the subject was attributed by the Minister of education to the interventions of the Ministry of Education National Mathematics Team. The results for English Language also showed improvement in the proportion of passes, an increase from 64 percent to 66 percent. The figures from the education ministry only relate to those students in the public institutions who are allowed to sit the exams, as in 2013 for example, about 85% of the grade eleven cohort were actually allowed to sit the CSEC exams.

Since 2009 the Ministry of Education has introduced a number of interventions to strengthen academic performance among students. Interventions by the Ministry of Education support it's tag line, “Every child can learn. Every child must learn”. The Grade One Readiness Assessment and the Grade Four Literacy and Numeracy tests, which are a part of the MOE's Competency Based Transition Policy (CBTP), are early interventions that have helped to prepare students for achievement at higher grade levels, while identifying students who require special interventions to correct deficiencies in their preparedness. Interventions like the Alternative Secondary Transition Education Programme (ASTEP) which kicked off in September 2011 are geared toward addressing profound deficiencies in literacy and numeracy at the grade four level. The ASTEP has, since its inception, undergone adjustment as it had previously not worked as planned, and the Grade Four Literacy and Numeracy tests continue to reap success, particularly among the girls. It is therefore expected that with continued intervention by the state, schools, and the family the outcome for students will be significantly improved.

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