Jamaica tends to look at her powerful North America neighbor the United States of America for guidance and ideas regarding policies from time to time. It is well established that the USA has a culture of overtesting their students and Education Minister Ruel Reid’s plan to introduce a new diagnostic test for grade nine students could be seen as moving Jamaica towards a culture of overtesting. The pending introduction of a National Grade Nine Diagnostic Test should begin in the academic year 2019/2020. It is noteworthy that some grade nine students already do a diagnostic test in the Grade Nine Achievement Test (GNAT) which is used to transfer students from all age and junior high schools to the 10th grade in secondary schools.
Under the National Grade Nine Diagnostic Test proposal all
students in grade nine irrespective of whether they attend all-age, junior high
or secondary schools will be required to sit this examination which will be
used to promote students to the tenth grade. Currently, all schools utilize
their end of term/end of year examinations to promote their students. What will
become of internal examinations? Will we abandon end of year examinations?
performing nations such as Japan, Singapore and Finland do not allow for so
much standardized testing of their students, yet those countries are far ahead
in student outcomes than those who are embedded and fixated in a culture of
overtesting. Why are we choosing this
route to test our already overtested students? Our students are tested at grade
four in primary schools, when they sit the Grade Four Numeracy and Literacy Tests.
Additionally, students sit the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) which is used
to transfer students to high schools.
In grade three, students are also required to do the Grade
Three Diagnostic Test. There is also the Grade One Readiness Inventory Test. Let
us not forget that there is also the Ministry of Education in collaboration
with the e-Learning Company Jamaica Limited Grade 9 Diagnostic Test. I suspect
that some of these standardized tests, especially those done at grade nine,
will now become redundant. Our students, like all other students in the English
speaking Caribbean also sit the Caribbean Secondary Examination Certificate
(CSEC) in grade eleven.
It is no wonder that a significant number of our students are
burnt out by the time they reach high
school. We must tread carefully along this tradition of overtesting as it quite
likely that our students are being denied an authentic educational experience.
We are slowly moving towards a culture of anxiety and tension among our
students. Yes, standardized tests do have a place in the education system. Yes,
we must administer tools of assessment to know where our students are. However,
learning should also be fun and we should not rob our students of a rich and
diverse teaching and learning experience solely for data gathering.