PEP – a publisher’s perspective
There have been a lot of anxious moments since the announcement by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information (MOEYI) of the replacement of the Grade Six Achievement Test with the Primary Exit Profile (PEP).
Along with students, teachers and parents, educational publishers were anxious about the implementation of PEP and the ability to quickly provide suitable content to prepare students for the new method of assessment.
The switch to PEP is welcome; Sonia Bennett, publishing manager at Carlong Publishers, said that the new examination systems strengthens students’ critical-thinking and the problem-solving skills at the primary level.
Bennett said that publishers like Carlong have been focusing on how to effectively provide text and materials that will reinforce reasoning and problem-solving approach.
“Along with existing material, Carlong has also designed a four-book series for PEP practice to be released later this year,” Bennett said.
The series will include high-quality practice papers spanning the subjects of language arts, mathematics, social studies and science at the primary level, and will strengthen the quantitative reasoning and problem-solving skills of students in grades four to six.
Bennett, though cognisant of the initial apprehensions and teething troubles, is upbeat about the prospects of PEP and what it brings to the table.
“This approach (PEP) will have a positive impact on students’ ability (at all levels of the system) by encouraging them to think critically, evaluate, and make effective, informed decisions about the real world. The quality of the persons entering the work world will also be greatly enhanced,” Bennett said.
Bennett said that the MOEYI has been assisting during the process of compiling new publications to better prepare students for the PEP exam.
She said that together with training sessions, the MOEYI facilitated meetings with the Book Industry Association of Jamaica (BIAJ) to hear and address concerns from Carlong and other publishers, notably those regarding the exam implementation timeline and the submission of publications for review by the ministry.
Reaffirming the book industry’s support of the switch to PEP, Latoya West-Blackwood, president of the BIAJ, expressed that the industry endorses any move to enhance children’s critical-thinking skills. “It starts with creating an environment, both at home and at school, that gives the children the room to be independent and become critical thinkers,” she said.
However, Bennett said that PEP could have been implemented in a manner that better considered publishers, to include a symbiotic timeline between the development and refinement of teaching and assessment models and the compilation and revision of suitable publications before the official implementation of the exam.
West-Blackwood, meanwhile is advocating for the recognition and consideration of the challenges publishers face regarding the provision of accurate information in a timely manner to advance the editorial and decision-making process.
“The material we aim to produce, which is high-quality, isn’t produced overnight. While the ministry, in the end, sought to correct a lot of things that weren’t going right in the beginning, the process definitely raised a lot of lessons – a major one being communication and the importance of everyone being on the same page at the same time,” she said.
The book industry in Jamaica is a thriving one and is responsive to ever-changing market needs, especially in the realm of educational publishing, which is guided by requirements set by the MOEYI. In cases of pivotal changes, such as the switch to PEP, publishers must keep abreast of new and revised policies from the MOEYI, anticipate and prepare for potential curriculum changes, and strategically chart the development and revision of new material. Failure to plan strategically could result in time-consuming assimilation of new material and, subsequently, delayed submission and provision of material to the market.