Excelsior Primary School students celebrate after completing their GSAT exams at the school earlier this year

In order to ensure that students are in a position to gain from a secondary education and that allocated resources are best utilised at the appropriate level, the ministry says that since 2008 it has been sensitising the education system, stakeholders and the general public on the movement away from automatic promotion to that of competence-based transition.

The ministry says that full literacy is a national development goal and in this regard, it will require the support of all stakeholders as it works towards achieving this target.

A competence-based transition policy was developed to guide the movement of children from the primary to the secondary level, based on the Grade 4 Literacy Test (GFLT). The GFLT administered to children at this level will function as the standardised measure of literacy.

All children at the grade-four level are, therefore, required to sit the test under this policy, and no child will be allowed to sit the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) without being certified as achieving mastery of the GFLT.

The policy allows for children to be provided with several opportunities (at least four sittings) to be certified.

The tests are scheduled as noted:

  • First sitting – general – in June each year (grade four).
  • Second sitting – supplemental – in December each year (grade five)
  • Third sitting – general – in June each year (grade five).
  • Fourth sitting – supplemental – in December each year (grade six).

The GFLT comprises three sections: word recognition, reading comprehension and a writing task. Student performance is categorised at three levels: mastery, near mastery, and non-mastery. In order to attain mastery the student must master all three sections in the particular test. mastery of the test indicates that the student is functionally literate and has developed all the critical skills necessary to acquire knowledge. It effectively shows that the student would not be at risk of being illiterate at grade six.

supplemental sitting

All children in grade five who were not certified as attaining mastery at the initial sitting will, therefore, be eligible to sit the GFLT a second time in December at the supplemental sitting. Grade-five children whose competency levels remain unchanged after the second sitting will be eligible to sit the test a third time at the general sitting in June. All children whose competency levels remain unchanged after the third sitting will be promoted to grade six with the general cohort and be eligible to sit the test a fourth time at the supplemental sitting in December. These children will be provisionally registered to sit the GSAT. However, only those children certified as literate will be allowed to sit the GSAT in March of the following year. For example, students sitting GSAT this year who sat the GFLT and achieved mastery in one of their four sittings (June 2009, December 2009, June 2010 or December 2010) are eligible to sit the school-leaving examination this March 2011.

It must be noted that support is provided at the school for students who have not mastered the GFLT from the first sitting. The Proficiency Pathway, a tool designed to treat with underperforming students, is also used to identify the students’ specific challenges and to treat with them accordingly.

Students who reach grade six without attaining mastery of the GFLT will be transitioned into the Alternative Secondary Transitional Education Programme (ASTEP). This programme is designed to provide a safety net for children at the end of the primary level who will require special intensive support and intervention to advance to the next stage. ASTEP will be a two-year transitional programme; students will be assessed at the beginning and throughout the programme. This is an opportunity to customise a programme for pupils to meet them where they are and bring them up to the required level. As such, ASTEP will provide a modified secondary education with the focus being on literacy so that they can make the transition, benefit from the system and ultimately achieve their full potential.

The conditions that are attached to the GFLT are not applicable to the Grade Four Numeracy Test at this time. It is a policy of the Ministry of Education not to have students re-sit the numeracy test, as it is not considered at this time as a part of the competence-based transition programme to other grades. Special interventions are, however, provided for students who are under-performing in the test.

SOURCE: jamaica gleaner

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