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More PEP concerns

St Mary school says PEP too advanced for primary level students following mock examination; calls for revision

BY KIMONE FRANCIS
Observer staff reporter
francisk@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, July 09, 2018

A St Mary school is expressing concern about the Primary Exit Profile (PEP) examination and is calling on the Ministry of Education to revise sections of the placement test following complaints from students who sat the June mock examination.

The call comes a day after a Sunday Observer story which reported that some students from three Corporate Area schools were left in tears after sitting the mock exam.

Students and teachers at Bromley Primary School in St Mary, while speaking to the Jamaica Observer North & East, all agreed that the exam was “difficult”.

Grade five teacher at the institution Coyette Tulloch describes the exam that replaces the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) as “a bit advanced”.

Tulloch said while she understands the Government's vision as it relates to critical thinking, PEP is “too much for students at the primary level”.

“Based on what I observed on their faces and what I was told, I realise that some of these things are high school work that they are now putting into the primary school system. For example, they gave different scenarios where the students had to choose from scenario one, two and three, then combine them to write an essay based on them. My thought on it and my feeling about it is that you have students who cannot read as well as others. So as soon as they see a lot of words they get flustered. They don't know what to do. They start drawing. Some of them tart sleeping simply because they have no idea. They just shut down,” Tulloch said.

“I think that they should look back on it and revise it. Take out sections that are more of the high school level. Where you have the different scenarios, I would take that out. If you should give them a passage and say summarise this or pick out something from it but not from three different scenarios,” the teacher added.

Tulloch said that for mathematics, students were asked “to build a dog house”, which she believes is too advanced.

“Another thing is that they want to introduce the imperial measurement to the students and my take on this is why is it just now, because we use metric system. We teach a lot about the metric system and now we are hearing that they are using a different system as is in the [United] States,” she said, noting that the curriculum is being made to model an international one which she doesn't think will work.

Tulloch said on the day of the mock exam she was repeatedly asked questions by her students, whom she encouraged to “just do what you can”.

For grade five student Alecia Brown, the mock exam was difficult.

“It was complicated. All of it was complicated. I knew the answers were right there, but you just had to read and look carefully. I just did my best. I think I would have preferred to do GSAT, although I won't get a chance to do it. They asked us about Don Creary. They told us about his high school years and about his life and asked us how he reached where he is today. That part was easy though,” Alecia said.

Lamar Monoroth, grade five student, also said he found the exam difficult.

“Everything was hard. Well, most of it. I didn't like when I had to write some important points from the sources they gave us. They gave us three sources and we were supposed to write important points,” he said.

One grade four teacher, who asked not to be named, said while she is not against PEP and while she is for critical thinking, the Government needs to provide more resources and facilitate more training for teachers as it relates to the questions for the exam — performance task in mathematics and language arts.

“I think that as it relates to the exam that was given, there were too many things given for the children to do. There was too much information for them to read and complete the task. I also think that they should put the source and the question on the same page so that the children will read the information at the top then answer the task,” said the teacher.

She told Observer North & East that her students “struggled” to complete the task given to them. She also said with more practice, resources and time, the exam “will work”.

“I am for critical thinking and we should develop these skills in students, but we need more time to do this. What I liked about the exam is that it reflected reality. You could relate to it, for example, the question about hurricane. If they didn't experience a hurricane, their grandparents told them about it. For the mathematics they had a fund-raising activity, and that is done here at Bromley. I think the challenge was the information given and what they were required to do. Jamaican children need more time as it relates to PEP. I think they shouldn't just get rid of GSAT like that. They should take time to introduce us and reintroduce us to PEP,” the teacher said, adding that her students were frustrated.

“We are encouraged by the Ministry of Education that when we are doing our lesson and our activities, it should be differentiated approach where you cater for all the learners, but PEP did not cater for all the learners. If my top students struggled, just imagine my students who were in the middle and who were at the bottom. So I think PEP, for it to really be what we really want it to be, they need to cater for all learners,” the teacher added.

Despite the concerns, grade four student Amelia White said the mock exam was easy.

“The mathematics was very easy. Some of the mathematics we got, we did them in class. The sources were okay,” she said.

Remaunny James found the mock exam difficult. He told Observer North & East that the exam was tedious.

“I remember with the math, the bake sale, I didn't like it. The language and weather were easy though,” he said.

Khajal Irons, too, said the exam was “hard”.

“I didn't like the part about hurricane, but I just write something. I didn't like the math or the fund-raising either,” he said.

In the meantime, principal Lois Smith Matthews said that the school is not fully prepared for PEP. She stated that the students need more time to practise given the questions they are required to answer.

“We want to have a better idea of how it will be done so that we can prepare the students,” Smith Matthews said.