GLEANER: There has been confusion among some educators, parents, and students surrounding expectations for the National Standards Curriculum (NSC) and the exam slated to replace the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) in 2019 the Primary Exit Profile (PEP).
The confusion stems from a misunderstanding of the concept of modern-day teaching, learning, and skill development.
Additionally, there is a deep-rooted belief that policymakers and educators alike are not adequately resourced to effectively administer contemporary methodologies and assessments by the time PEP is to be rolled out.
While there is some truth to the latter, the Ministry of Education, Youth & Information (MOEYI) has taken the position that it is imperative for the students to be cognisant of the changes in the world at large.
The risk of being left behind and becoming irrelevant is far greater than that of making the move to make the adjustments, which are to be implemented in a phase-by-phase manner beginning in 2019.
WHAT IS PEP?
PEP was designed to serve as an assessment tool to support the National Standards Curriculum for grades 1-13 that, according to MOEYI, is "aimed at improving the general academic performance and places direct emphasis on current methodologies.
These include project-based and problem-solving learning, which will allow students more hands-on experiences that are similar to real-world situations, making the learning experience less abstract and more concrete."
Developing what are known as modern-day skills, i.e., critical-thinking, communication, creativity, and collaboration skills, and also NSC content understanding, will better prepare our students for a fast-evolving world.
PEP places increased emphasis on assessing the students' demonstration of these skills. GSAT, on the other hand, is focused primarily on content for secondary-school placement.
The approach has to change in order to instil competencies relevant for today and tomorrow and to prepare students for the future. It will take time to move to the ideal, but PEP is a move in the right direction.
PEP will focus on the students' demonstration of skills over a longer period of time (grade four to six), developing a profile of where each student is academically heading into grade seven.
This generated profile will begin the process of informing the child's learning up to grade 13. PEP is essentially a passport for future success that will guide the MOEYI in preparing grade 13 graduates to obtain the equivalent of an associate degree.
This, however, will take time and effort.
Educators will require more resources to effectively implement the changes to come. They must ensure that students preparing for PEP continue to grasp optimum content knowledge in mathematics, science, language arts and social studies using multidisciplinary approaches outlined by the NSC.
A progressive education system is dynamic and can't happen overnight. It is fluid and is ever-changing, and requires a willingness to channel funds towards new and creative ideas and provide support where needed.
In Jamaica, we may be challenged with the economics of making the transition from content regurgitation to skill development. However, it should not cause us to remain static or prevent us from moving in the right direction.
There is no denying that there are challenges that lie ahead. The financial concerns weigh heavy, especially as it relates to the delivery of the curriculum. Increased projects and problem-solving-based activities require increased funding in the classrooms and at home. This leaves the question of whether or not this new curriculum and exam are, in fact, supporting equitable education for students and families from all levels of society.
Introducing A New Culture Of Learning
A transition to a sustainable and effective education system with changing and evolving practices is one that has to occur with a level of fluidity by all stakeholders.
It is for this reason that PEP will be implemented in phases to begin the development of learning profiles for the students while enhancing the development of the assessment tool over time.
With fluidity come a necessary investment in change and mindset management. As parents, we have to take the bull by the horns and focus on how we can transition our children in spite of an imperfect system.
Preparing children for fresh approaches to learning and citizenship is a team effort, and parents must begin to focus on the end goal rather than the exam itself. By reinforcing the importance of new skills through age-appropriate activities at home, the parents can help their children adapt to the renewed expectations for their learning.
Apart from the obvious with regards to homework assistance, discuss current and local events and news with your child to get them engaged with what they may be learning in subjects, like, social studies. Have them share how the specific issue makes them feel and how they propose to solve the problem.
Engage your child with open-ended questions from every subject area.
GET HANDS ON WITH AT-HOME AND LOCAL ACTIVITIES
Travel the island. Expose your children to various Jamaican subcultures and communities. Have frank discussions about how people live; compare this with other cultures and languages.
Be a role model and mentor to your children. Make working with others an open mindset priority.
GET INVOLVED AT SCHOOL
Join the parent-teacher association or volunteer at afternoon activities.
MAKE CONNECTIONS TO AFTER-SCHOOL ACTIVITIES
Select extracurricular and out-of-school activities that reinforce problem-solving, collaboration, communication, and creativity skills.
There is no hard-and-fast solution to easing anyone's concerns regarding an evolving education system. We must begin to see our individual and corporate roles in the journey to become relevant, and current and to keep pace with the developments in the world.
- Brittany Singh Williams is an education strategist and founder of SPARK Education. Feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org