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Jamaican Ministry of Education: Assessment in Education Research Paper

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Updated: Jun 10th, 2021

Introduction

The 2004 Education Task Force in Jamaica recommended the implementation of the National Standards Curriculum (NSC) to enhance educational outcomes. This endorsement was in response to a few shortcomings that had been highlighted in the 1999 Revised Primary Curriculum (RPC) (Jennings, 2017). The purpose of the revised NSC is to promote a smooth transition from one level to the next, clarify the expectations for each grade, eliminate redundant content, and make sure that students are well-equipped to grasp the content of the Caribbean Secondary Education Curriculum (CSEC) program.

These changes are also necessary to emphasize the attainment of skills, concepts and competencies in addition to the acquisition of content knowledge to guarantee that students are prepared to face challenges and embrace opportunities in the current environment that is characterised by rapid technological and social advancements. Modifying the national curriculum will also promote assessment for learning and exploit the resultant data to alter the curriculum according to the observed learning needs (Roofe & Ferguson, 2018).

The purpose of this paper is to explore three standardised assessments being used by the Jamaican Ministry of Education. This paper also describes important aspects of these exams such as their purpose, target audience, administration details and grading.

Grade 2 Diagnostic Test

Rationale

The purpose of the assessment is to facilitate prompt intervention for a prolonged period. This way, children facing difficulties in literacy and numeracy are likely to reap maximum benefits from this test prior to sitting for the Grade 4 Literacy Test. The assessment has been developed based on an “Evidence Centred Design” (ECD) approach (Johnson, Crawford, Moylan, & Zheng, 2018), which puts together educational assessments as evidential arguments. Changes in the test design permit the evaluation of “Higher Order Thinking Skills” (HOTS) that are associated with in-depth knowledge to clarify the current and future learning needs of students (Reid, 2016). Moving the test from Grade 3 to Grade 2 gives ample preparation time to influence mastery of literacy and numeracy tests in Grade 4 (Roofe & Ferguson, 2018).

Target Audience

The test will be administered to Grade 2 students in all Jamaican schools.

Administration Time

Children will receive Mathematics and Language assessment tests. Furthermore, the assessment will encompass the evaluation of components from the affective domain that deal with aspects such as strategies of handling emotional attributes, for example, feelings, appreciations, values, motivations, enthusiasm, and attitudes.

Process of Grading

There is limited information about grading in this assessment.

Feedback

The described detailed approach will help the ministry of education to pinpoint children with special needs and make it possible to execute the proficiency pathway.

Use/ Purpose of Feedback

The purpose of feedback from this test is to direct instruction and guide teachers towards the most appropriate ways of preparing children to attain international literacy standards.

Grade 9 Diagnostic Test

Rationale

Apart from facilitating the implementation of timely corrective measures, the Grade 9 diagnostic test will elucidate the performance of all Grade 9 students throughout the country. Consequently, it will be possible to ensure the implementation of the NCS at Grades 7 to 9 (Thwaites, 2014). The modified assessment takes a philosophical approach will allow instructors and other participants to establish students’ performance and furnish teachers with adequate information to develop study programs that will help all students to satisfy the expectations for each grade.

Moreover, the assessment will help in the recognition of students in need of additional support, particularly in literacy, ICT know-how and numeracy as they transition to CSEC programmes. The evaluation will also confirm that students who will not require additional help will have attained the highest qualification in functional literacy and numeracy (Roofe & Ferguson, 2018).

Target Audience

All students in Grade 9 throughout the country, notwithstanding the type of institution they attend. Students who will not have reached this level at the conclusion of Grade 9 will get extra support to help them reach it by the time they finish Grade 11.

Administration Time and Invigilation

The assessment is administered to students at Grade 9 study level by teachers in all learning institutions. These teachers are responsible for invigilation.

Process of Grading

The purpose of this test is to determine the kind of help that students require to facilitate timely interventions before they sit for CSEC examinations.

Feedback

Limited information is available regarding feedback. However, the outcomes of this assessment will be documented in the school leaving certificate.

Use/ Purpose of Feedback

The feedback attained from the test will help students to make informed decisions about their career choices early enough. In cases where students will be expected to move from one school to another, the outcomes of this test will be used to gauge the students’ performance and help them to adjust to their new schools. Feedback will also help to identify students who require extra help to grasp the CSEC syllabi.

Primary Exit Profile (PEP)

Rationale

The Primary exit profile (PEP) is a new standardised test meant to replace the current Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) (Ministry of Education, Youth & Information, 2017). The purpose of PEP is to give a profile of the student’s academic status, their strengths and shortcomings across different subject areas, as well as their preparedness to join Grade 7. PEP is also meant to guide the placement of students in secondary schools (Ministry of Education, Youth & Information, 2017).

PEP is expected to concentrate on finding out the degree to which students can utilize their comprehension of academic knowledge and skills developed to resolve day-to-day issues. PEP foundations are established on the tenet that competency encompasses knowledge possession and the ability to use the acquired knowledge. On the other hand, the previous exam (GSAT) focused more on academic knowledge and evaluation of students based on subject areas.

Target Audience

The target audience for the test is all Grade 4, 5 and 6 students in Jamaica.

Administration Time and Invigilation

The assessment will be administered to students in Grades 4, 5 and 6 by their teachers who will be responsible for administration and invigilation. The exam will be administered in 3 phases as follows: performance task in Grades 4 and 5 in term 3, ability test in term 2 of Grade 6, performance task in term 1 of Grade 6 and curriculum-based test in term 3 of Grade 6. The Performance Tasks constituents of the assessment will be given out in students’ separate classrooms by their corresponding classroom teachers.

Therefore, it will not be possible to complete this part of the assessment at home. Furthermore, this test component will be expected to be completed within a specified time frame. However, if a student misses any part of PEP, he or she will be allowed to complete any part of the assessment in the following year provided that they have not exceeded a specified age limit.

PEP will be executed in stages to make sure that all students are prepared adequately for its initial administration. The first cohort to sit for the assessment includes students who were in Grade 5 in 2017 (Ministry of Education, Youth & Information, 2017). These students will complete only the Grade 6 constituents of the exam in 2019. Conversely, students who were in Grade 4 in 2017 will complete their Grade 5 Performance Task this year and sit for the Grade 6 constituents in 2020. The first group to have a whole profile will be students who were in Grade 3 in 2017. They will complete a Grade 4 component in 2019, a Grade 5 component in 2020 and Grade 6 constituents in 2021 (Ministry of Education, Youth & Information, 2017).

Process of Grading

The assessment examines academic knowledge in addition to crucial dexterities required for effective operations in the 21st century, for example, communication skills and critical thinking capabilities. PEP consists of three major sections, a performance task (PT), an ability test (AT) and a Curriculum-Based Test (CBT). The first module (PT) comprises real-world situations that require students to put their knowledge and skills from subject areas such as Science, Mathematics, Social Studies and Language Arts into operation.

Learners will be expected to read methodically and apply quantitative cognitive skills in pertinent areas of the AT component. This portion of the test will not be founded on the curriculum. The CBT module will examine Grade 6 content alone in the same subject area as the PT. However, it will entail multiple choice questions together with other question formats. The module will be administered towards the end of Grade 6. The anticipated weighting for PEP is 30% for the AT and 70% for the CBT (Ministry of Education, Youth & Information, 2017).

PEP will pay less attention to memorisation but focus on HOTS, a major component of the new curriculum (Abosalem, 2016). The content covered in Grade 4 and 5 curricula will not be examined due to the need to test deepened knowledge at later stages. Involving teachers in the evaluation also facilitates the testing of areas that are not captured by the tests (Ministry of Education, Youth & Information, 2017).

Feedback

The feedback of the assessment will be made known to parents and teachers in the third week of July each year after the implementation.

Use/ Purpose of Feedback

The purpose of feedback is to facilitate the placement of students in secondary schools. However, there will be no change in the placement machinery because students will be expected to have seven choices of schools as it has been in the past.

Conclusion

A standard move from the evaluation of learning to appraisal for learning has been happening in the past few years. This change is necessitated by workplace requirements for novel knowledge and proficiencies in employees. Furthermore, the world economy of the 21st century requires students not only to comprehend basic information, but also to demonstrate a variety of aptitudes and expertise. Students can only be helped to acquire these skills by modifying school and classroom assessment formats and components. It is expected that the complete implementation of the new curriculum will help students to develop into all rounded individuals ready to face the current world.

References

Abosalem, Y. (2016). Assessment techniques and students’ higher-order thinking skills. International Journal of Secondary Education, 4(1), 1-11.

Jennings, Z. (2017). Interventions in schools’ curricula to achieve quality in learning: Experiences from the Commonwealth Caribbean. Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 47(6), 818-834.

Johnson, E. S., Crawford, A., Moylan, L. A., & Zheng, Y. (2018). Using evidence‐centred design to create a special educator observation system. Educational Measurement: Issues and Practice, 37(2), 35-44.

Ministry of Education, Youth & Information. (2017). . Web.

Reid, R. (2016). . Web.

Roofe, C., & Ferguson, T. (2018). Technical and vocational education and training curricula at the lower secondary level in Jamaica: A preliminary exploration of education for sustainable development content. Discourse and Communication for Sustainable Education, 9(2), 93-110.

Thwaites, R. (2014). . Web.

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