JIS: Jamaica’s National Standards Curriculum (NSC) is rooted in the local context and is designed to meet the needs of the Jamaican learner. It allows for the interrogation of national requirements and international expectations and places them in local settings. More importantly, the curriculum focuses on developing the child intellectually, aesthetically, physically, and emotionally.
With this model, learners are placed at the heart of the curriculum, and it encourages independent thinking and pulls on interest and talent. The various disciplines, science, technology, engineering arts, and mathematics (STEAM), are interconnected and relevant to real-life situations. More importantly, the curriculum provides a clear and relevant pathway for learning and is flexible in responding to the developmental needs of each child.
The Ministry of Education, Youth and Information (MoEYI), on February 26, 2019, replaced the Grade Six Assessment Test (GSAT) with the introduction of the Primary Exit Primary Exit Profile (PEP). It provides a profile of student’s strengths and weaknesses and their readiness for Grade 7. It assesses students’ knowledge, in addition to placing increased emphasis on assessing contemporary skills including critical thinking and communication. In a quest to sensitise the public, the MoEYI coordinated a series of sensitisation sessions of the NSC and its attendant assessment, the PEP. Stakeholders were engaged through various workshops, PEP camps, dissemination of materials, radio and television interviews, among other things.
On February 26, March 26-27 and April 16-17, 2019, students in the island’s public and private institutions sat for the first time the Ability Test, Performance Task, and the Curriculum-Based Test. More than 40,000 students were accommodated in 1,104 centres islandwide, under the supervision of a trained cadre of invigilators.
PEP STIMULATION CENTRES
Notwithstanding the work of the ministry and dissenting voices on its various approaches, school leaders have played their role in ensuring the full implementation of the National Standards Curriculum. Mark Jackson, principal of Ascot Primary in Portmore, St Catherine, has articulated that leadership matters and has brought into focus the behaviour and priorities of effective principals in ensuring that students, parents, and teachers speak with one voice as we are prepared and developed in this new approach.
An effective principal understands that while improving test scores is important the quality of instruction is equally important, for improving student achievement. Jackson indicated that there has to be a strong nexus between curriculum and assessment. His statement accords with Stiggins 1994; Valencia, 1990; and Wiggins, 1989, whose research indicate that authentic assessment is aligned with the curriculum. It assesses what we teach and what we value. As a principal, he ensures that assessment is integrated into daily instruction and classroom activities.
In fully embracing the NSC, Jackson has moved to making the alignment of instruction and assessment a culture of the teaching and learning environment of his school. In order to build on this culture, he has conceptualised the implementation of stimulation centres for the NSC and the PEP. These centres display how assessment involves real learning and exploration. Each centre is given a title (PEP-on’, ‘PEPfinity’,’ Hot-PEPpers’, ‘PEPperiffic’, and ‘PEPperville) to excite the imagination, develop creativity, and encourage curiosity in the children. Each centre is designed to reflect a real-world setting such as the beach, the park, rafting, treasure hunt and a play station. The centres are geared at stimulating students’ interest in academics. Fostering based on the material provided; and promote information, communication and technology. They also ensure the application of the 4Cs (communication, critical thinking, collaboration, and creativity).
The centres form part of the learning environment that supports the learning activities appropriate to achieve the desired learning outcomes in the National Standards Curriculum.
The National College for Educational Leadership (NCEL) has been integral in enabling Jackson to implement the stimulation centres across the grade levels. Having attended a recent training offered by the College and accessing the module on Effective Classroom Observation, he has sought to implement his action plan to put greater focus on instructional leadership. Jackson said, “The stimulation centers are but one of the strategies aligned to the Effective Classroom Observation Module that I have indicated in my action plan required by the NCEL. I must laud the college as it has allowed me to stretch my intellect in broadening the scope of this initiative.”
Jackson added that the students are able to go into the corners at leisure to access materials and work collaboratively in resolving real-life issues. He further stated that it has been serving its purpose and the teachers are pleased. He emphasised that exposure to the training and the attendant post-training requirements allow each principal to develop a workable action plan aimed at developing strategies within their schools to raise student performance. Jackson has seen incremental growth in his teachers and the enthusiasm and interest of the students where the NSC and PEP are concerned. As a leader, he desires to continue his growth and to learn as much as he can so that he can be even more credible for his students, teachers, parents, and the school community. He stated that “knowledge is infinite and change is inevitable. As an educator, you must stay current. NCEL raises your abstraction level. It stretches you to build your teachers and for them to become better.”
Jackson is happy that he has gained new skills and insights to make the NSC and PEP his everyday language in the school environment.
Information provided by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information.