Minister announces increased schooldays for grade six students

Education, Youth and Information Minister Fayval Williams has announced that there will be an increase in the number of schooldays in this academic year for grade six students who are slated to sit the ability test component of the Primary Exit Profile (PEP) exam on May 26.

The minister explained at a post-Cabinet virtual media briefing yesterday that the increase in schooldays is to allow for the administering of diagnostic tests to identify the gaps in learning that will have to be addressed once students matriculate to the secondary level.

“The ministry will administer diagnostic tests, not to be confused with the ability test at the grade six level, to gather data on the students’ achievements in the National Standards Curriculum. Data from this assessment will be sent to the high schools in which the students are placed. This diagnostic instrument will be administered by classroom teachers.

“This would require, however, that the number of schooldays be increased. The technical staff is preparing a retention document to lay out what criteria we use to determine which students are retained in their current class. Once that is prepared, we will consult with our stakeholders and, of course, this will be communicated to all Jamaicans,” said the minister.

The arrangements, Williams said, will make up for the areas of the grade six curriculum that would not have been covered in the current academic school year.

“The National Standards Curriculum allows for the aspects of the curriculum that were not covered at the primary level to be covered at the secondary level at grade seven.

“We know that the changes we have made are not perfect, but we believe them to be a practical approach to ensure transition to high school in an equitable manner,” Minister Williams added, stating further that the ministry will also have to embark on a “massive intervention” programme for students who would have been at a disadvantage with online learning.

The minister reported instances in which some primary schools textbooks that had been distributed at the start of the academic year, last October, remain uncollected by parents.

“We know that many of our students were barely or not at all engaged with any of the modalities.

“Some of our students are going to repeat grades, so that they can get back to where they were before the pandemic. We know as well that we at the ministry have to redouble our efforts to go beyond where we were when we started in the pandemic,” Minister Williams said.

On Tuesday, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information announced that in order to place grade six students in high schools the ministry will be combining test results from the PEP ability test scheduled for May 26 with the scores students would have received from the grade four performance task exams in 2019.

Students were first slated to sit the PEP ability test in February this year. The date was later pushed back to March 25.

Following consultation with principals and technical staff at the ministry it was determined that scores for the grade four performance task exam would not have been sufficient to place students in high schools.

“We have data that is guiding us regarding the grade performance task and ability test to reliably place our students in high schools. It would be the combination of these that the technical persons at the ministry consider to be the only method of placement that would be considered reliable.

“I’m advised that the use of the grade four performance task scores alone as a placement mechanism would not give enough data points to reliably rank students for placement. It is therefore important that the ability test be done on Wednesday, May 26, 2021,” the minister said.


– Sharlene Hendricks

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