In Jamaica the passing of the G.S.A.T. Examination is one of the defining moments in a student’s life. It decides where he or she goes on to continue secondary education. The students with the top grades are usually placed in the Traditional High Schools while others are placed in what we term ‘Non Traditional High Schools’ In many of these schools the performance is just average, so the moment a child is placed in one of these schools he or she is left with the feeling that they did not do well on their G.S.A.T. Exam.
This does not mean the student is a slow learner or that he or she lacks the potential to excel. Children learn at different paces; some start out brilliant and then slow down while others pick up later and continue to excel. The fact that a student did not get a ninety-five percent or upward grade does not mean that he or she cannot excel at the secondary level.
What is lacking in many of the Non Traditional High Schools is motivation. These students are placed in a school system where there is no set structure in place to motivate them. If the system is ready to give up on them, then they in turn will give up on themselves.
These students need to understand that it is not how they start but how they finish that really matters. They can do just as well as their fellow students in the Traditional High schools if they are motivated to do so.
I give you an example; my daughter was never at the top of her class in primary school, maths was her favorite subject so she always did well at maths, the other subjects not so well. When we moved to St. Kitts she attended the Washington Archibald High School. At this school there is an atmosphere of healthy competition and students are motivated to do well. Students who do well at C.X.C. are not only honored by their schools but by the Government and the Private Sector as well. After seeing fellow students graduating with eleven and more subjects,some with as much as eight distinctions, she felt motivated to excel as well and she did passing ten C.X.C. subjects, obtaining seven distinctions and three credits. Let me therefore emphasis, students need to know; it is not how they start out but how they finish that really matters.