The main difference between the Common Entrance Examination (CEE) and Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) is there are more subjects and more material to study for GSAT. But let us not forget, results day for CEE was just as stressful and traumatic.
That’s because the fundamental question these tests answer is “Which high school will my child attend?” Therein lies the problem, since the test results determine placement at the high school level, and the facilities and reputation of the high schools can vary markedly.
I don’t think that the main problem is the exam itself. The problem is that there are only a handful of high schools that we parents want our children to attend. Think about it. The desperation to get test scores up over 80% and 90% is almost entirely due to anxiety to get our children into one of the “brand name” schools.
The extra classes starting in Grade Four, the after school, Saturday, Sunday and Christmas classes are fueled primarily by our desire to get our children into their first choice school. (Parents are allowed to select five schools on the GSAT application form. Some are more popular than others and therefore children have to score higher and higher to get into them).
If we were assured that even if our children scored 80%, 70%, 60%, they would still end up going to a school with good facilities, good security, with no apparent problems of criminal gangs operating (yes, that’s what we’ve come to) and one in which we could be sure that their abilities would be nurtured and their potential realized, would we push our children so hard?
If we were convinced that their future did not depend to such a great extent on their GSAT placing, would we be able to relax a bit more, and place a little less stress on them? I make the point about security and gangs because I think that the lure of the “brand name” schools is greater than just academic excellence, it is also their reputation for law and order and a relatively peaceful school environment that attracts parents.
Many of the upgraded high schools have been doing better and better. But we still have a way to go.
So by all means, let’s review GSAT. But until we do more to solve the problem of inequity at the high school level, nothing will change and we will continue to see Grade Six children learning, far too early, the thrill of academic victory and the agony of defeat.