BY ALDANE WALTERS Career & Education writer - Jamaica Observer
Sunday, October 23, 2016
Nearly 250 third formers at Wolmer’s Girls’ School sat and passed CSEC electronic document preparation and management (EDPM) this year, earning 190 grade ones, 47 grade twos and four grade threes.
It is the best result to date in the seven-year-old programme which makes it mandatory for third formers to sit the subject.
“We wanted our students to develop a skill and also to increase their marketability,” head of the Business and Information Technology Department Whaunchia Rhoden told the Jamaica Observer.
“ When they leave here, they are well-rounded, because one of our principles here is to produce well-rounded students. So we decided that we wanted to increase their marketability by including that skill as well as that will improve their ability to produce documents when they come to the fourth and fifth form, where they have to produce SBAs; that’s a lot of document production going on.”
Principal Colleen Montague said that the move to do EDPM at third form was a natural progression, as the school has made information technology (IT) compulsory.
“All students do IT from first to fifth form, so it was a natural progression from second form into third form where they were being tested. They were doing it already so we said, ‘why not do the exam in it [and] actually examine them with an external body?’” said Montague.
The principal argued that IT is a vital skill in the 21st century, hence making the subject mandatory.
“We feel that it is a necessary skill for students to graduate with from high school. All students should be computer literate, information technology literate. Because every place of employment, every market that is available requires that skill. And so our students need to be prepared for that market that they will enter, whether it be tertiary or the workplace,” Montague said.
The school said that since the introduction of the programme, which is the brainchild of former department head Kareene McCallum-Rodney, there has been an increase in the number of grade ones, in addition to the consistent 95-98 per cent pass rate. There has also been marked improvement in the presentation of SBAs.
“When the SBAs are given, the students are better able to prepare more professional documents to present to teachers. Before, we used to have many instances where we had to be helping students putting the documents together, tell them how to outline and arrange it. Now they have come to the table with that sort of skill, so it makes life easier for everyone,” said the department head of 11 years.
The school said that there is usually a bit of anxiety about the efficacy programme at the start of each third form year, due in part to the varying academic levels at which students enter third form. However, Montague said the track record of the staff over the years quickly abate any fears, as they worked to ensure that each child was ready for the exam.
“The thing about is that success begets success. So we have the track record of success in the subject and so one year group tells another. So over the years, the students have gained confidence that this is doable because of the success rate over the past seven years. And the teachers themselves are comfortable in what they’re teaching, they have rather expansive knowledge of the syllabus and the students,” she told the Jamaica Observer.
In addition, having a CSEC subject to think about at this level has caused the students to display more maturity at a young age.
“For many years, we have found that the third form is that group that is most challenging. And what we have found now is that there is a behaviour change. They are far more focused [because] they are challenged to produce and because they have to manage their time very well. So it’s managing their time, carrying 13 subjects internally which includes EDPM and be doing it at the CSEC, but they manage because they are brilliant students. We feel like they are capable and when we did it, we said, ‘Challenge them, challenge the students to do more’,” she continued.
For the students, it began with uncertainty but ended with success. Jayan Morgan, who obtained a grade one with a straight ‘A’ profile said she was very nervous when she was introduced to the programme.
“When I first heard about it I was like ‘Wow, I’m gonna do a CSEC exam!’ And it was really nerve-racking at first because in Jamaica CSEC is a big thing and for my standards I had to pass. It was nerve racking because I was doing this big exam and I have to be prepared for it and I don’t know if it’s gonna be very challenging that I can’t pass,” Jayan recalled.
However, having got into the preparation phase, they said it was all about hard work.
“What accounted for our success was the work put in by our peers. We took it very seriously and had good teachers. Between the students, we helped each other out with the computer and understanding how to manipulate certain software on the computer. We taught each other and the teacher would also help us and give us activities on Schoology,” said Ashley Evans, who also obtained a grade one. Schoology is a school management software that is used by the institution, and which is also employed in EDPM lessons for practical application of knowledge.
For Shavelle Shaw, who also obtained a grade one with a straight ‘A’ profile, the early exposure to the subject will help in her planned career.
“EDPM has really helped because it gave me the understanding of the computer and the different software. I’m actually going into the business field so I’ll need to know all of those things like Excel and Access. So it has helped to steer me into the business field,” she said.
Montague, who is in her 13th year as principal of the institution, said that the programme shows that if students are challenged to a higher standard, it can be achieved.
“It has proven to us that we need to challenge our students to aspire to greatness; aspire to another standard. So, once we feel that we are satisfied; we are comfortable with anything at all that we are doing, we are always looking as a school, as a staff, ‘What else can we do?’ ‘How else can we continue to improve on the standards and the performance of our students?’ and this was just one project that we had.
We are [also] looking at what to do in first and second form to just keep them focused because it is important for them to be engaged and to be focused in school and we have to find things to do,” she told Career & Education.
Photo: Aston Spaulding