Support, concern among teachers over PEP postponement

A number of primary school teachers yesterday expressed support for the postponement of the Primary Exit Profile (PEP) Performance Task examinations for grade four and five pupils, while others were concerned about the lengthy period of delay.

In a bulletin recently issued to regional directors, school board chairmen and principals, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information indicated that the exams, which were scheduled for this month, will take place during the latter half of the Christmas Term of the 2021/22 academic year.

Damion Smith, a grade four teacher at Padmore Primary School in St Andrew, explained that, although he was looking forward to the exams, the postponement was a good move.

“It has been a challenge for some of the students, as not all of them were able to participate in online classes. What would make them feel disappointed is maybe how the information was disseminated to them, because they were preparing and it is not the case where the exams will not be held at all,” said Smith.

He told the Jamaica Observer that if the exams had not been postponed students would perform fairly well, but “there is nothing like the face-to-face interaction, as some students learn through tactile experiences. It has its advantages and disadvantages”.

Sharing a similar view, Nicole Johnson, a grade four teacher at Harrison Preparatory in St Catherine, said students were not 100 per cent ready.

“The timing will be great because some of them really need some face-to-face interaction,” said Johnson.

“Some of them are even asking ‘Are we still going to get the exams?’ They have put a block to all of this, so we are working with them and hopefully they will give us the results that we are looking for,” she said, noting that a summer programme would enhance the students’ readiness.

As of yesterday, schools approved by the Ministry of Health and Wellness as COVID-19-compliant should have ensured that all grade four and five students were scheduled for face-to-face instruction in preparation for their examinations.

Beverley Smikle, grade five teacher at St Aloysius Primary School in Kingston who expressed concern about the prolonged period of postponement, said: “We would really rather if it would not go as far as the first term in the new school year. I don’t actually see how it is going to be beneficial to the children.”

According to Smikle, when students go off on summer break, the teaching and learning process will be greatly impacted, as they are “going back to square one”.

“They will be matriculated to grade six, and to have them going back to do the grade 5 exam will have them stepping backwards,” said Smikle.

Another grade five teacher, Fitzroy Clarke at Airy Castle Primary School in St Thomas, argued that to some extent there might be benefits and disadvantages.

“Several students did not get access to the online platform up to this day; I am sure of that, because as it relates to general teaching and learning, based on register taking in the day, you could see where several students are [absent] and we are seeing the same set of students. The postponement would probably be fair to some students who weren’t getting any access at all,” said Clarke.

Meanwhile, Jillian Myers, grade five teacher at Portmore Missionary Preparatory School, said she did not agree with the decision and would prefer cancellation of the grade five exam.

“This leg of the exam does not need to be administered, and given the crisis that we are in, I think the students can go ahead with just the Primary Exit Profile (PEP) examinations. To put it in a new term, I have a lot of concerns with how that will be,” she argued.

“Is the ministry saying that, while the students are preparing for a grade six exams they will be taking a grade five exam? I am not sure of how that will work out,” said Myers.

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